(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Mossad head Meir Dagan’s comments last Wednesday that an Israeli military attack on Iran would not stop its nuclear march, and his reported criticism of the country’s leadership, continued to reverberate Sunday, with a number of ministers blasting him before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, and one even suggesting legal action.
In addition to his comments last Wednesday night about Iran during an appearance at Tel Aviv University, he also said then that Israel should have accepted the 2002 Saudi peace plan that called for a return to the pre-1967 lines in exchange for normalization of ties with the Arab world.
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On Friday he was quoted in the media as saying that he decided to speak out because with his retirement in January, as well as with the recent retirement of both chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin, “there is no one to stop Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak.” Dagan was quoted as saying that when he was in office he, Diskin and Ashkenazi could “block any dangerous adventure.”
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), who along with his cabinet colleagues had up until January heard Dagan’s briefings inside the cabinet room, said if there was harm to national security from the comments, then “there may be a need to take legal action.” Hershkowitz, speaking to reporters before the weekly cabinet meeting, said that if harm was done to the country’s security, then there was no substantive difference between Dagan and anyone else who jeopardized Israeli security, and that he should be judged by the same legal standards.
Dagan has been criticized by politicians from across the political spectrum for the comments. Cabinet ministers have accused Dagan of crossing red lines but Hershkowitz was the first to suggest possible prosecution.
Not everyone agreed. National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu), while taking Dagan to task for his statements, said nothing would come out of a legal investigation of Dagan, and that Israelis were simply fed up with these types of investigations.
“What is needed is to simply behave as is needed,” he said.
Landau praised Dagan for being an “excellent Mossad head,” but added that everyone fails at one time or another. “Even Napoleon had his Waterloo,” he said.
At a time when Israel was trying to create a perception vis-à-vis Iran that a military action against Iran was an option, saying that it was not a viable option harmed the state’s security, he said.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz – who in 2009 was opposed to extending Dagan’s tenure for more than another year, saying at the time it was important to change the Mossad leadership to get a different perspective – took a jab at the former Mossad head, saying “Dagan never liked chatter coming out of the defense establishment, and I think that the behavior he expected should also be expected of him.” Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin told Israel Radio he found it “strange” that Dagan wanted his term as Mossad chief extended if he lacked faith in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Dagan’s statements last week echoed similar ones he made in a briefing with journalists in January just before leaving office. At that time he also said that he did not believe Iran would gain nuclear capability until the middle of the decade.
“I thought I understood the message the first time,” Begin said. “But it is possible that the premise is that someone like me needs to hear similar things three times.” Begin said that while he thought long and hard about what Dagan said, he could not come up with anything in his words that was helpful to Israel’s national security.
A source close to Netanyahu was quoted by Channel 10 on Friday night as
accusing Dagan of being interested in bringing down Netanyahu and Barak,
despite a three-year cooling-off period for top security officials that
prevents him from entering politics until 2014. The source said that
Dagan “went nuts” because Netanyahu and Barak did not extend his term.
“He is enjoying the limelight so much that he has forgotten the rules of
democracy,” the source was quoted as saying. “He talks about the threat
of war with Iran after he was in charge of preventing the
nuclearization of Iran for eight years and didn’t stop it.” Dagan has
been supported by MKs in Kadima and parties further to the Left. Hadash
MK Dov Khenin told a peace rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night that
Dagan’s comments proved how urgent it was to topple Netanyahu’s
A former senior Mossad official, Rami Igra, told The Jerusalem Post
the attacks on Dagan were unwarranted and politically motivated.
“Meir Dagan is a citizen of the country like any other. He has a right to say what he thinks, and his view is based on many years of experience in security,” said Igra.