The legislators, who were all privy at one point to sensitive intelligence on the Iranian issue, blame the defense establishment for "creating virtual pandemonium" and "inciting confusion." The IDF's chiefs, they added, "should just keep quiet."
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Former Shin Bet Chief Avi Dichter (Kadima) pointed a finger at the powers that be: "The debate is legitimate when it involves politicians and security officials, who can offer insight on looming threats… What I think is fanning the flames are statements made by people in office.
"Assigning blame and passing the buck don’t serve any public interest. They may serve someone's personal interest, but they definitely do us harm."
Dichter stressed that "If the discourse is so dangerous, the IDF and defense establishment would do well to stop focusing on it. Things like the missile test yesterday and the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit's statement on the distant-strike drill only fan the flames and create confusion at what is already a very sensitive time."
"Netanyahu was the one to let the Iranian jinni out of the bottle and I doubt his attempts to discover leaks would withstand ever the most basic legal scrutiny," Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) told Ynet.
IAF fighter jet during drill in Italy (Photo: IDF)
'Some boundaries shouldn’t be crossed'
Former deputy Shin Bet chief and Kadima Faction Chairman Yoel Hasson stressed that the "legitimacy of the public debate only goes so far… we have to know which boundaries it can't cross. None of the elements involved is beyond reproach."
Hasson offered Defense Minister Ehud Barak advice, saying: "What's happening in the IDF now is not abnormal, but if you want to avoid a public debate – act like it. Don't do anything that might encourage legitimate questions and concerns… Personally, I have little faith in the defense minister's public sensitivities."
Former IDF Spokesperson MK Miri Regev (Likud) added: "The IDF spokesperson and the defense establishment's job is to downplay a public debate on such a sensitive issue, not to encourage it.
"The defense establishment can't question the fact that the political arena and the media are focusing on the issue, when they themselves do just that and very publicly. If they want to stop the debate, they should just keep quiet."
Former IDF Spokesperson MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), who was in office during the Gulf War, wanted of erosion in the public's faith in the defense establishment.
"It is inconceivable that we are being preached to on how dangerous the public debate on Iran is, while the IDF is prompting the issue… In the past, we never knew when the IAF was deployed, and now these things are initiated.
"This is a well-panned campaign," he continued. No one asked the IDF about its exercise, and yet we are being supplied with answers."
Meanwhile, a security official told Ynet that reports of a joint training exercise between the Italian and Israeli air forces may dissuade Rome from taking part in it, over the kick up it created and in light of the circumstances.
The Israeli Air Force is set to host joint training exercises with Italian and Greek fighter pilots in the next few weeks, as part of the corps' annual training program.
A military source told Ynet that "It's not customary to publicize these maneuvers in advance and it may cause the Greek or the Italians to withdraw from them. This is not the kind of thing that should cause a ruckus, regardless of the recent days' rumor mill."
The source stressed that the planned maneuvers were routine, adding that the exercise will take place in the IAF's regular training area.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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