Israel's Shin Bet security service chief has said his country may come to regret the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, because strong dictatorship is preferable to the present chaos in Iraq. Yuval Diskin, who was secretly recorded talking to teenage Jewish settlers preparing for military service, also said Israel's judicial system discriminates against Arabs.
The recording was made public on Israeli television this week. Amid a barrage of questions, mainly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr Diskin was asked about Iraq. "When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos. You get what happened in Iraq. I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam," he said.
Israelis initially welcomed the overthrow of one of their old enemies as helping to establish a new democratic trend in the Middle East. But political leaders have since privately voiced concerns about the growing destabilisation in Iraq and its potential to spill over to Israel's neighbours, particularly Jordan.
Mr Diskin also told the students at the Eli settlement in the West Bank that the security establishment and judicial system treated Arabs and Jewish suspects differently. "I do not see equality in the way the system handles them [Arabs and Jews] when they are guilty of the same type of offence," he said. "If I had arrested a terrorist from [the West Bank city of] Nablus and Eden Nathan Zada [the Jewish man who shot dead four Arabs on a bus last August], they wouldn't have received similar treatment in interrogation or court."
His predecessor as Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter, who is running for parliament in next month's general election, told Israel radio he agreed with the comments. Asked if discrimination would continue, he said: "I fear it will".
Mr Diskin also said that he thought Ariel Sharon was mistaken to pull Israeli settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza Strip without the establishment of a stable Palestinian system. "From a security perspective, I am opposed to handing over territories to the Palestinians unless we know there are officials there who will take control and commit themselves to upholding the law. If there are no such officials, then I am against handing over territories to Palestinian control."
He added that "Jewish terrorists" who used violence to oppose withdrawals from the occupied territories were worse than Arab attackers. "A Jew who carries out terror attacks is a cancer in the nation. With the same determination that I pursue the terrorists of Hamas, I will pursue a Jew who wants to kill another Jew."
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