Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who dedicated the larger part of his life to protecting Israel, was awarded the Chaim Herzog Prize, on Wednesday, in recognition of his unique and significant contribution to the State of Israel in the field of security.
A joint undertaking of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Yad Chaim Herzog, the prize is awarded every two years to a person who has made an exceptional contribution in one of the spheres in which Israel’s sixth president left his own. These include security, legislation, law and ethics, foreign relations, national unity and coexistence, mass communications, and Israel-Diaspora relations.
Dagan, the seventh recipient of the prize, which is awarded on the anniversary of Herzog’s death, received it in a moving ceremony at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. It was presented to him by Herzog’s widow, Aura, as well as by President Shimon Peres and Hebrew University professor Menachem Ben Sasson, in the presence of two additional generations of the Herzog family: sons Joel, Brig. Gen. (res.) Mike, Labor MK Isaac and daughter Ronit, and most of Chaim and Aura’s grandchildren.
Also present was Dagan’s immediate predecessor in the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, himself a previous recipient of the prize.
“I wish I could tell you everything there is to say about Meir Dagan” said Ben Sasson. The professor described Dagan as a leader, and explained that the difference between a ruler and a leader is that a ruler has power by virtue of his office, whereas a leader is a person who inspires others to follow.
Mossad is also the Hebrew word for institution, and Ben Sasson pointed
out that Dagan not only headed the Mossad, but is himself a mossad, and
is currently taking on civilian challenges with the same leadership
qualities he displayed in the army, as the prime minister’s adviser on
counterterrorism, and finally as director of the Mossad.
Dagan is currently director of the Israel Ports Authority.
Mike Herzog, who has known Dagan for many years, said it was symbolic
that he received the prize on the eve of Pessah, the festival of
freedom, and that no one deserved it more. He also underscored the
similarities between his father and Dagan.
Both were combat officers in the army and rose through the ranks to be
generals; both were members of the intelligence community; and both did
“more than we are allowed to talk about.”
“He was the right man in the right place at the right time,” Herzog said
of Dagan, adding that the son of Holocaust survivors knew how to handle
Peres was well acquainted with Chaim Herzog, who in addition to his
other attributes, came from a rabbinic dynasty, was an officer in the
British Army during World War II, was active in fighting the Nazis and
liberating the death camps before he joined the fledgling IDF, and, like
Peres, was a Labor MK.
“He went from being a combatant to a diplomat to president” said Peres, adding that Herzog was “a great leader.”
Peres also referred to the dramatic moment in 1975 when, as Israel’s
ambassador to the United Nations, Herzog instilled pride in Jews around
the world by standing at the podium of the UN General Assembly and
tearing up the resolution equating Zionism with racism.
In accepting the prize, Dagan said it wasn’t his alone but belonged “to
all those anonymous soldiers in the intelligence community who spend
their lives protecting Israel.”