JERUSALEM (AP) — The former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency on Tuesday said the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to region-wide peace in the Middle East, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution.
The comments by Tamir Pardo were his first foray into political issues since stepping down as Mossad chief early this year.
With peace efforts with the Palestinians stalled for more than two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instead sought to cultivate alliances across the Arab world. In addition to the decades-old peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Netanyahu frequently boasts of what he calls strong behind-the-scenes contacts with moderate Sunni countries, presumably Saudi Arabia and smaller Gulf states.
But Pardo said these ties cannot develop further without progress with the Palestinians.
"In my opinion, we won't be able to reach any agreement with any country beyond what we have now if we don't solve the Palestinian issue," he said.
He noted that Netanyahu has endorsed the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. "I think he is right and I think he needs to follow that path," Pardo said.
Although Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution, he has given few details on where the Palestinian state would be formed. The Palestinians accuse Israel of sabotaging peace hopes by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured territories where they hope to establish their state. Netanyahu has demanded the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Dozens of former Israeli commanders have urged Netanyahu to push harder to resolve the Palestinian issue, saying the continued occupation of millions of Palestinians endangers the country's democracy.
Many have accused him of mishandling the matter, though Pardo's vague comments stopped short of doing so.
In other remarks, Pardo warned of growing polarization in Israeli society, saying such divisions could lead to "civil war." However, he did not assign blame to any single leader or political party, or elaborate on the type of divisions he was referring to.
Netanyahu's office declined comment.
Pardo spoke at an event in northern Israel promoting an upcoming march held each year in memory of Druse soldiers killed while serving in the Israeli military. The event was hosted by Amal Asad, a retired top Druse commander.