Middle East

Israel ex-security chief says leadership 'misleading public' on Iran

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defence Minister Ehud Barak
Image caption Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak have repeatedly warned that Iran is trying to obtain nuclear arms

The former head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency has accused the country's leadership of "misleading" the public on the merits of a possible military strike on Iran.

Yuval Diskin said an attack might speed up any attempt by Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb.

The comment follows remarks by other leading figures contradicting the prime minister and defence chief's views on the subject.

Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly said Iran must be prevented from building nuclear weapons and have not ruled out military action to disrupt its nuclear programme.

Mr Diskin, who stepped down as Shin Bet chief last year after six years, said he had "no faith in the current leadership" of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak, according to Israeli media reports.

"I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings," he said at a public meeting.

"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race."

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says this was by any measure a stinging attack on the Israeli prime minister and his defence chief.

Mr Diskin's harsh criticism appears to be another sign of deep disquiet within the Israeli military and intelligence community over Prime Minister Netanyahu's threats to attack Iran.

Dissenting views

The former Shin Bet chief's comments come days after Israel's military chief said he did not think that Iran had yet decided to build nuclear weapons.

Chief of Staff Lt Gen Benny Gantz said he believed international sanctions against Iran were bearing fruit in dissuading it from taking such a decision.

In March, the former head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, publicly opposed military action against Iran.

Meir Dagan said an Israeli attack would have "devastating" consequences for the Jewish state and would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Such views are at odds with those of the prime minister and defence chief. Prior to Mr Dagan's remarks on US television, Mr Netanyahu had hinted he would not countenance a long delay before taking direct action against Iran's nuclear programme if all other options failed.

He said he hoped "we can peacefully convince them to tear down their nuclear programme", but that either way "the result has to be that the threat of a nuclear weapon in Iran's hands is removed".