Israel’s former spy chief warns that country could turn into a ‘dictatorship’

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A former Israeli spy compared the government’s reform of the judicial system to “a car heading towards the abyss” in an interview with a local TV channel.

Nadav Argaman, former director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, hit out at the reforms on Thursday evening.

‘Only one person can stop this madness. That’s the prime minister’

Nadav Argaman, former leader of the Shin Bet

Argaman warned that the checks and balances holding the Israeli government accountable in parliament had broken down, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hijacking the process.

“This is a world upside down, a crazy world. The anarchist is the ruler,” said Argaman.

“Only one person can stop this madness. That’s the prime minister,” said the former spy chief. “He’s the one who pushed this whole move, which was carefully planned in advance, and he’s the one who can stop it to add. Everything is completely in his hands.”

Israel is currently suffering from a political crisis that has pitted Netanyahu’s far-right government against civil society, academia and the country’s business elite, as well as former government ministers and military figures.

The prime minister is currently on trial for corruption, and the amendments could enable him to avoid conviction or have his case dismissed.

Since his indictment in 2019, Netanyahu has publicly railed against the justice system, saying it is biased against him.

Argaman warned that Israel could be on the verge of a constitutional crisis and insisted that Ronen Bar, the current Shin Bet leader, “must listen to the law only and exclusively”.

“The leader of the Shin Bet is subject to the prime minister, but above all, he is subject to the law,” he said.

‘Regime change’

Calling out in unusually strong words for someone who has been part of the political establishment for many years, Argaman warned that the reforms were part of a regime change aimed at “turning the Israeli dictatorship legal”.

Taking a swipe at Netanyahu’s senior coalition partners, Argaman said he had little confidence in their political ability.

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“I hear members of the coalition government saying, ‘Trust us’ and when someone tells me to trust them, I know we’re in big trouble.

“Who can I trust? Simcha Rothman, the most extreme extremist? Ben-Gvir, the criminal anarchist? Smotrich, who wants an economy based on God’s help? Netanyahu, who cannot find the brakes and who is wandering towards the abyss?”

Simcha Rothman is widely regarded as one of the main architects of the judicial reform programme.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s minister of national security, often engages in political action and incendiary rhetoric, including earlier this year entering the al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard in a highly provocative move.

Bezalel Smotrich, who is also the finance minister responsible for Israel’s civil administration in the occupied West Bank, said last month that Israel should “destroy” the Palestinian village of Huwwara after a violent rampage by settlers.

Argaman added that if the proposed laws were passed, Israel would be on the “threshold of dictatorship” and the country could see “the collapse of state bodies”.

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