Jerusalem, April 29 (Xinhua) — Israel’s leading media concur that a rift is growing between the country’s hawkish leadership and the defense establishment over how to counter Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The former head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency on Friday joined a list of top security veterans who have criticized Israel’s threats to launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, expressing his personal distrust in the current government and accusing it of misleading the public on the projected success of such a strike.

"I have no faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us to an event of this magnitude, of a war with Iran or a regional war," Yuval Diskin told a private discussion group, in the harshest public comments to date regarding the policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Iran.

"I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defense minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on Messianic feelings," Diskin said.

Diskin, who stepped down as head of Shin Bet a year ago, further accused Netanyahu and Barak of misleading the Israeli public on the Iranian issue.

Commenting on Diskin’s remarks, Nahum Barnea, a senior political commentator for the Yediot Aharonot daily, said the former Shin Bet chief is "a bully — callous and void of political correctness … Only one thing can be said in his favor: he speaks the truth. A disturbing and annoying truth, and he isn’t alone."

Prior to Diskin’s remarks, Meir Dagan, former director of the Mossad foreign intelligence agency, ridiculed the idea of resorting to military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, telling an academic conference last year that it is "the stupidest thing I have ever heard."

Other prominent security figures who have expressed reservations regarding the wisdom of a military strike include Israel’s former top military commanders, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz and Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and Uzi Arad, Netanyahu’s former National Security Council chief.

Last week, in a slew of Independence Day interviews appearing in Israel’s leading dailies, military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said he viewed Iran as "rational" and unlikely to build a nuclear weapon. He stressed, however, that his forces were ready to launch a strike, pending a governmental decision.

Ronen Bergman, Yediot Aharonot’s intelligence analyst, opined that the "abyss that has gaped" between Netanyahu and his security chiefs, all of whom retired more or less around the same time a year ago, "isn’t all tied" to the Iranian issue.

"Netanyahu, fearful of what his opponents might say and of ( media) leaks, kept them (Dagan, Diskin and Ashkenazi) in the dark on several moves. At times, they discovered what was taking place from sources, or from the adversary, and were outraged over not being updated," Bergman wrote.

Associates of Netanyahu and Barak quickly dismissed the latest remarks, which headlined local media reports on Saturday and Sunday, claiming that Diskin is "personally frustrated" by having been passed over for the prestigious post of Mossad director after stepping down from the helm of Shin Bet and implying that he was seeking a political career.

"Diskin calls the Israeli pubic ‘stupid’ … if that’s what he thinks, why did he extend his tenure as Shin Bet chief under Netanyahu by a year, and wanted to head Mossad? His comments are irresponsible and fuelled by frustration," said one official at the prime minister’s bureau in Jerusalem.

A statement released by Barak’s office sarcastically wished Diskin "welcome to political life" and accused him of "acting in a petty and irresponsible way, which damages the tradition of generations of Shin Bet chiefs."
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who chairs the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, also swiftly condemned Diskin’s remarks.

"Diskin was an outstanding Shin Bet chief, but if you do not trust the prime minister and the defense minister, you should have resigned and not waited for the end of your term," Lieberman told Israel’s Channel Two TV’s "Meet the Press" on Saturday.

Israel’s recently elected opposition leader, Shaul Mofaz, on Sunday defended Diskin, telling Army Radio that the former security chief had spoken out of "deep concern" for Israel’s future.  

April 30, 2012