Ex-Shin Bet head sets out his programme for rescuing Israeli politics
The article by Yuval Diskin and his programme for change is followed by commentary from Haaretz. Notes and links at foot.
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, moves from criticism to call for new politics in Israel. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
Saving Israel from its corrupt politicians
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin makes a plea for the silent majority to reclaim the country.
Ynet Op-ed: Yuval Diskin
March 23, 2014
The corruption affair involving Rabbi Pinto* has already been endlessly dissected, but to me the most important and astonishing facet of the affair, which has yet to be suitably noted, is the number of people who require the services of a gang of “seers” that has bloomed in our country.
The phenomenon wouldn’t have taken such strong and wide roots if it wasn’t for the increasing demand for the service of this type of crook.
Beyond that, the Rabbi Pinto phenomenon characterizes the opportunism that serves the “now-ism” culture that has spread amongst us.
Israel today is suffering from the culture of “the here and now,” the culture of “no planning,” the culture of “no real accountability” and the culture of “no modesty or shame” characterized by a significant sector of public representatives, public servants and tycoons. These people have built themselves up, with the help of various public representatives across the generations, by scalping public funds.
Quite a few of them rush to hear the wretched advice of those so-called “people of knowledge,” who are usually adorned with the title of rabbi, and sell their deceptions by projecting an image of “seer.” In other words, those who can communicate with God in hidden and mysterious ways.
If this sounds laughable or absurd to you, then let me tell you a completely true story. A very dignified minister in the previous government used to come to me from time to time, while I was still the head of the Shin Bet, with reports of a mysterious rabbi he did not want to name, who is known as a “seer” (the minister’s words). The minister explained to me that this rabbi has credentials and is known as someone who can accurately predict election results, and know of terrorist attacks before they occur.
In one of these bizarre meetings, the minister told me confidentially that this credible seer told him about a “man with very bad intentions” (in those very words) who was walking around Tel Aviv “in these very moments”. I’m not sure if he was suggesting or instructing me to act quickly to stop this terrorist attack, or the blame would fall on my shoulders.
After listening to him with much skepticism, but at the same time granting him the courtesy he deserved, I decided to take the risk and not send special units from the Shin Bet, the police and the IDF to search Tel Aviv for this man with “very bad intentions.”
This is where the funny part of the story ends. The less amusing part is that this seers-fond minister was also a member of the most sensitive government forums, in which decisions about whether or not to go to war are made. The very likely possibility that this same minister, following the advice of his seer, made demands on matters of national security kept me up at night.
What is opportunism?
The phenomenon in which tycoons and public officials rush to seek these seers’ advice is not at all a marginal one. It’s a part of the ever-developing culture of opportunism serving now-ism.
Opportunism is a way of life based on taking advantage of random opportunities derived from current interests. In such a culture, advice from a “seer” who claims to communicate with God is priceless.
Now-ism is the culture of the here and now, which places the goal of personal political survival above what is best for the country. This is a culture that allows many of our politicians to run for office with a platformless platform, which says nothing on any major issue that is supposed to be on Israel’s agenda.
This is also a culture that takes advantage of a symbolic state visit, like that of the president of the European Parliament or the British prime minister, to create a spectacle of shallow national pride, the only purpose of which is for those politicians to endear themselves to their voters, or create a media spin around a committee and a bill proposal that manages to almost completely remove all substance from the concept of equality in sharing the national burden.
Now-ism is also politicians ignoring, due to transient political interests, incidents of racism happening right in front of our very eyes by the price tag bullies. It is a situation in which the sane political center sees how the country is being stolen right under its nose, and does nothing to ensure that it is steered by the principles that the great majority of the country holds dear.
Because of this now-ism, the sane center abandons the country to a hollow right-wing party (Likud) being controlled by a group of frenzied extremists who ally themselves to the Yesh Atid party – which is committed to reaching “equality in sharing the national burden” but has since removed all substance from this idea – and with the national-religious Bayit Yehudi party, whose ideology is determined according to one man’s needs, a confidant of shady oligarchs who narrowly managed to escape the law’s short arm and has since (allegedly) turned into the peace-loving moderate amongst the current government’s right-wing politicians.
We can all see this, and many of us wonder or even laugh at this absurd spectacle that comes up with cynicism in all of its scenarios on “Eretz Nehederet” (the satirical TV show “Wonderful Country”).
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I talk to, this is a state that has lost its vision, direction and path, and has a leadership that feels extremely confident because it is never threatened, even when it is leading us towards the brink of diplomatic, social and economic disaster.
Guidelines for a vision
Is it really so complicated to define principles for a social-diplomatic-economic-security vision that would have general consensus among the people and that would serve as a compass to lead the way for our politicians? I believe that it is actually quite simple. I will endeavor to convey succinctly what I hear from many in Israel’s political center – as well as the non-extreme left and right – on the sort of state we really want.
A sane democratic and Jewish state that is not led by rigid ideologies from the right or the left.
A state in which national unity always stands above that of territory, and the sanctity of human life always stands above the sanctity of land.
A state whose maintenance does not require the continuous occupation of another nation.
A state that has a clear separation of religion and state.
A state that treats all of its citizens with respect and dignity, including its minorities, and wages all-out war on racism.
A state that takes care of its weak and poor citizens.
A state that does not continue subsidizing those who do not help carry the national burden.
A state that does not allow organized crime to rage on its streets.
A state that holds as investment in education and knowledge as its uppermost value.
A state that is strong as far as security is concerned, that can deter its enemies and those who wish it harm, but at the same time strives – with actions, not just hollow speeches – for peace with its neighbors.
A state that is accepted and valued among other nations for being moral, enlightened and developed.
I personally believe there is a great majority in the country that will accept these principles as a social-economic-diplomatic-security compass.
So let us ask ourselves in the simplest manner: Do any among us believe that this is the direction in which the parties and politicians we have elected are taking us?
I believe it isn’t. The fatal combination of opportunism in the service of now-ism in our country has for years been an ideal habitat for corruption, ties between capitalism and government, shallowness, lack of planning, lack of vision and the lack of daring in almost every field.
So what can we do about it?
On the one hand, I’m optimistic, because even today the Zionist-center and its sane fringes on the left and right still make up the majority in this country.
On the other hand, I’m pessimistic, because that very center I’m talking about is a silent and sleepy majority watching its country being stolen from right under its very nose – and says nothing.
In order to make a meaningful change of course from the direction in which we’re currently heading, all of the center parties and factions must join forces to shake off the culture of opportunism in service of now-ism, to return substance, values and morals to our society, and to determine the right set of priorities to lead this country we hold so dear in the right direction.
Yuval Diskin slams major political parties on the right and in the center in a piece for Yedioth Ahronoth, sets out his vision for saving Israel from itself.
March 22, 2014
Former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services, Yuval Diskin, slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and the right-wing and center in Israel in general, in a column on Friday for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, in which he also presented a vision for saving Israel from itself.
“The sane center is abandoning the state to a shallow party of the superficial right (Likud) that is being controlled by a bunch of belligerent extremists,” Diskin wrote.
On Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, Diskin said the party championed the idea of sharing the burden of army service and “emptied it of meaning.”
Meanwhile, Habayit Hayehudi, led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, is “a nationalist-religious party in whose eyes the unity of the land is more important than the unity of the people.”
Diskin said that the ideology of Yisrael Beitenu, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “is set according to the needs of one individual, the confidant of shady oligarchs, who eluded the short arm of the law by the skin of his teeth and since then has become (allegedly) the moderate peacemaker among the right-wing in the current government.”
He was referring to Lieberman being acquitted on charges of graft in November last year.
In the piece, Diskin presents his “Social-Political-Economic-Security Vision,” some 11 articles long. It is based on “what I hear from many people in the political center, and also from the non-extreme left and right-wing,” he wrote.
One of the demands of the “vision” is a “democratic, Jewish and sane state that will not be navigated by rigid ideologies from the right or the left.”
The former Shin Bet chief also called for “a state whose maintenance will not require the ongoing occupation of another people” and “a state that does not allow organized crime to go wild on her streets.”
Along with this, Diskin called for the separation of religion and state, for struggle against racism, for protection of the weak and investment in education and security. The final article urges that Israel must be “accepted and respected by the family of nations for being moral, ethical, enlightened and developed.”
Diskin also referred in the piece to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, who is suspected in Israel of having bribed a senior police officer, saying that the Pinto affair characterizes the culture of “opportunism” that has spread in Israeli society, along with the culture of “yes and now.”
Many elected officials “flock to hear the pathetic advice of people that usually boast the title of ‘Rabbi’ and who sell their deceptions by building an image as people with vision,” he wrote.
Diskin described a senior minister in the former government who would come to him when he was still head of the Shin Bet “with reports from a mysterious rabbi whose name he didn’t want to reveal” who could predict terrorist attacks. Once, this former minister he even asked Diskin to act immediately following one of his predictions, “just in case a big attack is not prevented, and then the responsibility will fall on me. ”
Notes and links
*Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto was charged with various counts of bribery in Israel and the US, last February. See Details of Rabbi Pinto bribery case cleared for publication, JPost, Feb. 2014, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto Ordered NYPD Detective to Arrest Aide’s Rival: Lawsuit
Accused of Threats, Intimidation in N.Y. Civil Suit, Jewish Forward, Feb. 2014; Rabbi Pinto will be charged with bribing police officer, Jewish Press, Feb 2014; No plea bargain for Pinto: It’s in the public’s interest to uproot the ostensibly corrupt culture that involves rabbis, police, senior politicians, businessmen, journalists and criminals, Haaretz Editorial, March 2014.
The comatose state of Israel, Nehemia Shtrasler interviews Yuval Diskin, January 2013