A former chief of Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad, says that ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel pose more of a threat to the Jewish state than Iran. Ephraim Halevy pooh-poohed the threat from Iran, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were said to be rounding up support for a unilateral attack on Iran. Halevy said Iran is “far from posing an existential threat to Israel.”

Instead, Halevy said that the real danger to Israel comes from radical, ultra-orthodox Jews, also known as “haredi  Jews.” He said: “The growing haredi radicalization poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad. The ultra-Orthodox extremism has darkened our lives.”

Halevy, along with another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, is opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran, and he supports stronger efforts to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians.

Anti-Iran bombast from Netanyahu, along with Israeli media reports that the prime minister is seeking to win support for striking Iran’s nuclear research facilities, has caused widespread concern in Israel and around the world. Halevy’s comments caused sputters of outrage from the far-right religious parties that make up a crucial pillar of Netanyahu’s extreme-right government.