Meir Dagan conference 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
NEW YORK – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu harmed efforts to prevent the
nuclearization of Iran by focusing the world’s attention on the potential for an
Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan
said on Sunday in a joint interview with The Jerusalem Post and The New York
Times at the 2013 Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York.
appearance at the Post conference was his first in public since he received a
liver transplant in 2012. Despite his recent ill health, he started his speech
by saying he was pleased to be in New York as it was “better than the
Asked about his health, he said he felt as if he was in the
“garden of Eden.”
Dagan caused an uproar when he criticized Netanyahu in
the past on the Iranian issue, and he said his opinion had not changed. The
former Mossad chief said that for the first time in Israel’s history, Israel and
progressive Arab states had mutual interests. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and
Azerbaijan were much more threatened than Israel, he said.
an immediate attack on Iran is not beneficial to Israel,” Dagan said. “It
transferred the Iranian issue from a worldwide issue to an Israeli issue. I
would have been happier had [US President Barack] Obama made his announcement
that he would not let Iran get nuclear weapons in Riyadh and not in
Dagan called Netanyahu “a clever man,” but added that the
prime minister “was perceived as involving himself in internal issues in the US
and interfering in the American election and went too far.” This was not helpful
for the goal of maintaining US-Israel relations, he said.
Palestinian issue, Dagan called for widening the talks to include Arab
countries. The Saudi peace initiative could be an important basis for such
talks, he said.
“We are on the giving side and the Palestinians are on
the receiving side,” Dagan said. “We give substance, they give us promises. It’s
in our interest to widen our dialogue with the Palestinians to the Saudis and
the rest of the Arab countries.
Israel can have a secret dialogue with
those countries. That would widen what we would receive.”
On Syria, Dagan
downplayed the chemical threat and the threat of an Islamic takeover of the
country. But he said Israel could carefully support Jordanian forces in Syria
and express moral outrage to President Bashar Assad’s atrocities.
Jews cannot be silent when Assad executes his people,” he said. “We have
to present a moral approach. We have to take a stand.”
During his speech,
Dagan told conference attendees that despite Assad’s many war crimes, the use of
chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war was a “local decision,” and it was “not
approved by the Syrian government.”
Dagan said that he was hesitant to
“make an estimation” Assad would “leave soon.”
He added, however, that he
was confident in making the prediction that the Islamic regimes being
established in the wake of the Arab Spring “won’t be a big threat to Israel,”
and he agreed with former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s contention that there “is
no immediate” traditional military threat to Israel in the short
term.Sam Sokol contributed to this report.