Meir Dagan, gadfly
The outspoken former Israeli spy chief is a lens on internal Israeli debates that are often overlooked in the US.
Israel reveres its generals and spy chiefs. They traditionally wield great influence over security decisions while in power, and keep mum once they're out.Skip to next paragraph
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But recently retired Mossad boss Meir Dagan has been on a tear. Famously reticent to talk while running Israel's spy agency, he remained quiet after stepping down in September following eight years on the job. But then this May he started to make up for lost time, speaking out in a way that is infuriating allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He called the idea of an Israeli strike on Iran "the stupidest thing I have ever heard." He also said that Israel must, for its own well-being, accept the Saudi-led peace plan that would see Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders and give Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem.
Israel's Channel 2 reported over the weekend that Dagan was ordered to immediately surrender his diplomatic passport (Israeli officials are apparently generally allowed a grace period with the passport after leaving office) and speculated that it could be "to get even" with Dagan.
What brought all of this talking out of Dagan, who presided over numerous successful Mossad operations during his tenure, including the presumed assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabbouh in Dubai in January 2010? This is a man whose life's work has been dedicated to Israel's security.
He says that he's talking precisely so that he can help enhance that security.
Perhaps most irksome were his comments on Iran in May, when he spoke publicly for the first time since leaving office. He declared a strike on Iran's acknowledge nuclear facilities would violate international law, the disbursed nature of Iran's program would make it an extremely difficult mission, and the result would be "war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end," he said.
He estimated that Iran has the ability to fire rockets at Israel for months in response, and that Hezbollah in Lebanon, an Iranian ally, could chose to launch thousands of its cruder grad missiles at Israel.
He followed all this up earlier this month by saying an Israeli strike "will give the Iranians the best excuse to pursue the nuclear race." The English language version of the Yehdiot Aharonot, one of the country's largest newspapers, termed the comments and response the "Dagan Affair."