Middle East Eye / July 27, 2023
Tamir Pardo says Israeli government is in the grip of ‘extreme lunatics’ and ‘horrible racists’ who are ‘a lot worse’ than US white supremacist group.
The former head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad said on Thursday that his country’s government is in the grip of extremist factions that are “a lot worse” than the Ku Klux Klan.
Tamir Pardo told Kan radio that he believed government ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich represented “horrible racist parties” that are “a lot worse” than the US white supremacist group.
Pardo, who served Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as head of Mossad from 2011 to 2016, said that by inviting Ben Gvir, Smotrich and other far-right politicians to join his coalition, Netanyahu had taken the Israeli equivalent of the “Ku Klux Klan and brought it into the government”.
“The leader has lost his mind. Nothing that has happened would have happened if the prime minister didn’t lead this process,” the former spy chief said, dismissing the idea that Netanyahu is being led by extremists in the government as an “urban legend”.
The comments have drawn widespread attention in the Hebrew media, reflecting a broad and growing opposition to the prime minister and his government’s program of judicial reform.
While saying that he didn’t “want to get into examples from the 1930s”, Pardo pointed to Smotrich’s comments that the Palestinian town of Huwara should be “wiped out”.
The former Mossad man said that some of the anti-Palestinian laws currently being passed in the Israeli parliament would be deemed antisemitic if they were being enacted in another country and were targeting Jews.
This week, the Israeli parliament was accused of significantly expanding a “racist” piece of legislation that would see Palestinian citizens of Israel screened from living in almost half of the country’s small villages and towns.
Pardo said that Netanyahu is responsible for Israel’s current polarization, adding that the prime minister is leading a coalition government made up of “extreme lunatics”.
“A nation has been torn in two and the prime minister does not blink and shows happiness on his face,” the former Mossad head said.
Earlier this month, Pardo joined other former security chiefs in warning that the current justice reforms being pursued by Netanyahu risked opening the country and its soldiers to criminal prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Despite several months of protests across Israel, parliamentarians succeeded earlier this week in passing legislation to remove a key judicial power, limiting the ability of the courts to override the government’s laws.
The so-called “reasonableness standard” had long been a thorn in the side of right-wingers in Israel and Netanyahu’s government hailed its removal as a victory for parliament over an unelected body.
It allowed the court to overrule what it considered unreasonable government decisions and appointments.
In a speech against the judicial reforms, Pardo warned that if the law was passed “we will be similar to Iran and Hungary – ostensibly a democracy, in practice a dictatorship”.
A number of organizations, including the Israel Bar Association, have filed a petition with the Supreme Court against the legislation.
However, it is debatable as to whether the court can actually act to strike down the new legislation.