Ex-Shin Bet chief slams Israel's religious fundamentalism, likens it to Al Qaeda, ISIS

Ex-Shin Bet chief slams Israel's religious fundamentalism, likens it to Al Qaeda, ISIS
Ami Ayalon compared Israel's military strategy in Gaza to ISIS and Al Qaeda and accused Tel Aviv of religious fundamentalism.
3 min read
15 December, 2023
Former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency Ami Ayalon [Getty]

The former chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s national security service, has criticised Israel’s military occupation amid its ongoing war on the besieged Gaza Strip

Ami Ayalon, who was also a former commander-in-chief for the Israeli Navy, appeared in an online talk hosted by the international affairs think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Ayalon joined alongside Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller and former Mossad director Efraim Halevy, where they discussed the role of intelligence during Israel’s ongoing bombardments in Gaza. 

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During the session, Ayalon compared Israel’s military strategy for the war to that of “ISIS and Al Qaeda” and said he believed that the current Israeli government was steeped in religious fundamentalism, which has led to the indiscriminate killings of Palestinians since October 7. 

“[The] political goal is to create a human disaster in Gaza because from the chaos we shall start again,” he said. 

“This is the exact theory of the most radical, fundamental Muslim organizations; this is exactly the theology and the strategy of ISIS and Al Qaeda."  

Ayalon added that by not defining a specific political goal and using war “as an objective”- which he said should be implemented as a tool- he argued that Israel’s plans had become a “huge failure”. 

He also showed his support for a two-state solution and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.  

Ayalon said the plan was the best for reaching peace and stability in the Middle East. 

"This is the only way for us to be safer without losing our identity,” Ayalon said. "I really hope that someone will put it on the table." 

The ex-Shin Bet chief previously condemned Israel’s relentless military offensive in Gaza, which has killed over 19,000 Palestinians as the war reaches its third month.  

In an interview with France24, Ayalon said that he backed the eradication of Hamas and Israel’s right to exist as a state. 

However, he shared his concerns about how the government continually viewed the Palestinian people, which he said has defined its security approach. 

“Our government does not recognise the Palestinians as a people.  As long as there is conflict, we will not come to an agreement, and we will not see stability,” Ayalon told France24

Israel has continued to press Gaza with its intense air, ground and sea invasion- despite mounting international calls for restraint, with key backer the United States saying the war must not lead to a long-term Israeli occupation of the territory. 

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly supported a non-binding resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, but Washington voted against it.