(photo credit: courtesy)
Meir Dagan, who has been in public service for 43 years, the last eight
as head of the Mossad, took leave of the cabinet Sunday with the words,
"I did the best I could, thank you very much."
Dagan, reading from a prepared text because he said "I am not as good at
words as most of those sitting here," praised those who serve in the
Mossad as "an excellent and unique group of both women and men, who act
with originality and daring, who are imbued with a sense of mission, and
who work unselfishly night and day.
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"Usually, they do not have backing and support as a group, nor do they have tank or air assistance, and, in most cases, there is no possibility of rescue," he said. "They operate with the sole protection of their sharp wits, their cover story and their courage. They cannot even tell their loved ones about what they are doing, and seclusion is their constant companion. What motivates them is the need to protect the Jewish People and the State of Israel."
Dagan, who was appointed by prime minister Ariel Sharon, served three
premiers: Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu. He called on
Netanyahu to "work to strengthen the ties between the Jewish Diaspora
and the State of Israel so that we may uphold the verse in Ezekiel
(11:17) 'I will even gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out
of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the
Land of Israel'."
Netanyahu thanked Dagan, who before he was Mossad head advised a number
of prime ministers on counter-terrorism, and said he has done "great
things" for Israel's security.
"I cannot tell about all of your actions but I can tell ministers about a
conversation we had in the Mossad offices, approximately one year ago,"
"I sat in your office and I saw on the wall the picture of an elderly
religious Jew, on his knees before Nazi thugs. This picture caught my
eye and I asked you about it. You said that that was your grandfather.
I asked you what happened to him. You told me: They murdered him.
Then I said, Meir, I understand you; now I understand you. I understand
your deep commitment to ensure that nobody could ever again be able to
implement the threat of annihilating the Jewish People. This is both a
personal and national order and you acted in accordance with it,"
Dagan also received accolades from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who
praised him for his "creativity," "imagination," and "daring." He said
that people under Dagan always felt that he "understood the big picture,
gave them support, and both knew and understood the details of their
operations. He characterized Dagan's contribution to the security of the
state as "brilliant."
In other developments in the cabinet, the government on Sunday approved
an NIS 184 million package of benefits for Sderot and communities
adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The goal of the package, according to a
cabinet communiqué, was to "advance and strengthen the resilience of the
residents of the area."
The aid package includes:
* 20% tax credits for those making up to NIS 227,640 a year.
* A 30% discount on local taxes for residences and 24% discount on these taxes for industry, business and services.
* Economic assistance to local councils for special expenditures
stemming from the security situation – NIS 8 million for Sderot and NIS 5
million to be shared among the Eshkol, Ashkelon Coast, Sdot Negev and
Sha'ar Hanegev regional councils.
* Psychological-social assistance for the population, at five locally-operated centers.
* Continued assistance in operating emergency medical centers
(increasing the number of intensive care ambulances, operating a night
medical switchboard and reinforcing the mental health center in Sderot).
And on another matter, the cabinet approved NIS 15m. to rehabilitate and
upgrade the infrastructure damaged by the Carmel fire at the beginning
of December. Water, sewage, electricity, roads and playgrounds in Ein
Hud, Ein Hod, Yemin Orde, Nir Etzion, and Beit Oren will be upgraded to
restore services as quickly as possible to the damaged area.
Netanyahu will present a memorandum next week about a government
decision to create a national firefighting authority, purchase
firefighting planes and deal with preparing buildings to withstand
earthquakes, he told the cabinet.
Ehud Zion Waldoks contributed to this report