Forner Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Photo by Alon Ron
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Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said on Sunday that Iran's leadership is using "smart" diplomacy to advance its nuclear program, and that the Iranian threat is not a "quarrel" between Israel and Iran, but an international issue.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Post in New York, Dagan described President Ahmadinejad's regime as "smart" and "a master of diplomacy that heads forward consistently to achieve its nuclear objectives."

It is wrong to describe the issue as a "quarrel between Israel and Iran," Dagan asserted, adding that the Iranian problem "must be solved by the international community."

Earlier at the conference, Dagan backed former head of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, who sharply criticized the Israeli leadership over the weekend. Diskin criticized Netanyahu and Barak on their bellicose stance on Iran, as well as what he called the premier's unwillingness to advance peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Dagan said that Diskin was his friend, and added that he "spoke his own truth."

The former Mossad chief said that he agrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu's government that the Iran threat is a real problem, but disagrees with their policy on solving it. If the problem will not be resolved, Dagan added, a nuclear arms race will begin "all over the world, and not just in the Middle East."

Dagan also referred to the peace process with the Palestinians, saying that the issue should be resolved urgently, because it has had a "destructive effect" on Israel's relations with the Arab world. Time is of the essence, Dagan added.

Regarding the situation in Syria, Dagan said he supports the removal of President Bashar Assad, but did not mention how this goal should be achieved, only stating that there is a need to find a way to establish a Sunni regime in Assad's place that has the support of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. This kind of development, Dagan said, will weaken the military and political force of Hezbollah, and the status of Iran in the region.

Dagan also spoke about the Arab Spring uprisings, which have swept the region since early 2011, saying that he does not predict a "conventional problem" for Israel in the next two-three years as a result of the revolutions. He said he thinks these countries will be kept busy with internal power struggles. He said that the Arab league is moderate compared to past years, and that Israel has a wide shared interest with some moderate Arab countries as a result of the Iranian threat and of radical Islam.

On Friday, comments made by Diskin in his local town of Kfar Sava came to light. During an event in a local restaurant, the former intelligence chief unleashed a scathing attack on Netanyahu and Barak, saying he had "no faith" in their leadership.

Diskin criticized Netanyahu and Barak on their bellicose stance on Iran, as well as what he called the premier's unwillingness to advance peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

An official response from the two arrived late on Saturday, leaving Likud ministers to fend for their party leader, with some accusing the former Shin Bet chief of acting from resentment and personal interest.

Former PM Ehud Olmert also criticized Israel's confrontation with the U.S. government at the conference, and said that, "this is not the time or the place to talk or to about or to initiate" a military strike on Iran.

Olmert refused to address the remarks by Diskin's remarks, but stated, "We would all like to trust in Israel's leadership."

Olmert criticized the government, and said that it "is making a mistake" in the way it handles its ties with the Barack Obama administration. "There is no reason for us to look as if we are giving orders to the U.S. government," he said.