He may have been retired for a year, but former Mossad chief Meir Dagan is still a top media favorite. Without any media adviser, Dagan delivers his same message with the same impact, grabbing headlines every time he grabs microphone.
His first television interview - for Ilana Dayan's "Fact" program on Channel 2 Wednesday - was a case in point. As in his previous statements, made in lectures and forums described as "closed" yet quoted in the media, Dagan devoted a considerable part of his address to dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, now the focus of a raging controversy in the Israeli leadership.
On his resignation from the position of Mossad chief Dagan reportedly told confidants he intends to do everything he can to prevent an irresponsible decision regarding Iran.
Now Dagan is making no effort to conceal his fears of the duo Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak in this regard. In the interview to Dayan last night he castigated Barak's statement last month about Israel having a time window of less than a year for a military move to stop the nuclearization.
"I'm very troubled," he said. "What I understand [from Barak's statement] is that Israel must act within that time frame. I don't share that appraisal."
Between the lines, Dagan indicated he was considering a political career after the "cooling-off period" in about two years. He is aware of the public's respect for him as a man of action who fought against terror, and according to foreign sources acted to thwart Iran and Syria's nuclear programs. He also has an account to settle with Netanyahu, who did not make life easy for him in his last year in the Mossad.
Dagan believes with all his heart that he has a duty to prevent a military attack at this time. He may be expected to continue warning against this in future as well.
"The defense minister, prime minister and finance minister will not be able to stop me from expressing my opinion. We are not living in a non-democratic state," he said.
After Dagan's resignation Haaretz learned that he met Yaakov Or, head of the security division in the State Comptroller's Office. The conversation's content is classified, but it may be assumed that they discussed this issue. Shortly before that Dagan met the comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, and former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
Dagan, Ashkenazi and former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin forged a strategic alliance regarding Iran, as a counterbalance to the line espoused by Netanyahu and Barak, who supported the military option in principle. After his discharge, Ashkenazi tried to interest Lindenstrauss in the leadership's decision-making process vis-a-vis top security issues.
Dagan has been slamming Netanyahu and mainly Barak since the meeting with journalists he called in the Mossad headquarters on the day he resigned in January. Still, there is a difference between briefing reporters or a blurred video clip from a university lecture and a prime-time television interview.
Dayan places Dagan's statements in the context of the Mossad's apparent achievements during his term, "according to foreign media reports," such as the assassination of Hezbollah senior operative Imad Mughniyeh, the mysterious malfunctions in the Iranian nuclear industry and the assassinations of the nuclear scientists in Tehran. This adds to Dagan's credibility and weight as a public figure.
Barak understands that too. After Dagan's previous statements Barak accused him of irresponsibility and causing damage to Israel's deterrence. Meanwhile Barak himself got entangled in superfluous commentary about the attack's timing and the number of expected casualties, as well as in his slip of the tongue saying if he were Iranian, he'd want a bomb as well.
In an interview to Israel Radio Wednesday morning, Barak refrained from criticizing Dagan directly and said those who say dealing with Tehran isn't an Israeli matter may lead to the international community's acceptance of Iran's production of nuclear weapons.
In closed talks, both Netanyahu and Barak repeatedly address Dagan's statements. Both seem worried not only of the damage to Israeli deterrence but to the former Mossad chief's influence on public opinion.
Dagan last night expressed concern for possible mistakes made by Israel's leadership. He explained that if a decision takes shape to attack Iran, it is up to him to warn of the imminent disaster. He said an offensive now would be entering "a regional war with eyes wide open. This is necessary only when we're attacked or when the sword begins to cut the flesh."
He added that Iran would react with missile fire, as would Hezbollah, Hamas "and in view of Syria's problematic situation, there's a good chance the Syrians would join in" to divert attention from the riots against the regime.
"I can't predict the number of fatalities in such an attack," he said, in a barb aimed at Barak.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: דגן העיד בפני המבקר על קבלת ההחלטות על איראן
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