Ex-Mossad Chief Meir Dagan to Headline anti-Netanyahu Rally

Dagan, who called Netanyahu's policies 'destructive to the future and security of Israel,' will speak at rally demanding regime change at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

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Ex-Mossad leader Meir Dagan.Credit: Moti Milrod

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan will be the keynote speaker at a rally demanding regime change which is planned for Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on March 7.

Sponsored by the Million Hands grassroots campaign and other social movements, the rally will take place under the banner "Israel wants change."

Dagan sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent statement, saying that he "senses that the continuation of the Zionist dream is in danger" under Netanyahu's leadership.

"As someone who has served Israel in various security capacities for 45 years, including during the country's most difficult hours, I feel that we are now at a critical point regarding our existence and our security," Dagan said.

"I have no personal issue with the prime minister, his wife, his spending and the way he conducts himself – I'm talking about the country he leads."

Dagan described Netanyahu's policies as "destructive to the future and security of Israel."

"As someone who has raised his children here, and now his grandchildren, and as someone who believes in all his heart in the Zionist dream – I sense a danger to the continuation of that dream – and for that reason I will speak."

The organizers of the rally wrote on Facebook that "after six years of failure, we demand that hope be returned; the hope for a better life in the state of Israel. It depends on us. Let's fill the square and together shout: "Israel needs change – the nation demands that the leadership be changed."

Another Facebook page, calling itself Being Counted for the Security of Israel, released a video this week featuring former security services commanders calling for regime change. Among those appearing in the vide were former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit, Amiram Levin, former head of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, and others.

Dagan told Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Friday that he held no personal grudge against Netanyahu, who, he said, "did everything possible to help me when I was sick and needed a liver transplant. "

Nor does Dagan's own position on Iran differ substantially from that of the prime minister. "A nuclear-armed Iran is a situation that Israel cannot accept," he insisted in the interview.

Nevertheless, he came out publicly against Netanyahu on the eve of the latter's address to Congress because he believes that the prime minister's handling of the Iran issue will only lead Israel into greater danger.

"The person causing the most strategic harm to Israel on the Iranian issue is the prime minister," he told Yediot Ahronot.

Iranian nuclearization is a global problem, he said, and Israel is "engaged in this situation from a tricky place."

Israel, he pointed out, "has never signed any international convention regarding nuclear weapons. Israel refuses to allow international inspections. It would have been better, therefore, for Israel to remain on the sidelines. We will support any effort – intelligence or political – but we should always remain in the background."

Which doesn't mean that Israel has been doing nothing, Dagan stressed. "The first sanctions that were imposed on Iran in 2003 were because of Israel," and he acknowledged that Israeli clandestine operations had succeeded in delaying the Iranian nuclear program.

"When I stepped down as director of the Mossad in 2011, I said that Iran would not have nuclear weapons before 2015. I hate to say it, but I was right."

Israel had time and some of it was used wisely, Dagan noted, pointing to successes in preventing countries from selling dual-purpose items to Iran, United Nations resolutions against Iran and the international sanctions that were adopted.

"But Netanyahu wanted to go one step further," he said. "He turned the Iranian problem into Israel's problem. Countries which had taken measures against Iran responded to his speeches by absolving themselves of responsibility. The message they got from him was that if Iran reaches the moment of truth, Israel would deal with it."

Regarding the military option, Dagan said that all the prime minister's advisers had warned against it. "Netanyahu would have to have taken full responsibility for such a decision – and he didn't want to do that He didn't want to take such a dramatic decision without the backing of all of his military chiefs, because he knew that, in the end, he would be responsible. I have never seen him take responsibility for anything."

Dagan lambasted Netanyahu for "putting all of his eggs in the American basket. He's not reaching out to any other country. He should have been talking to Merkel, Cameron, Hollande and Putin – who claims that he is our ally – and to the Chinese. His behavior has motivated the Americans to rush to sign an agreement."

Asked what he thought needed to be done about Iran, Dagan responded: "What we could have done was gain time with secret operations or nurture opposition forces and minorities within Iran. There were plenty of options. I would not have confronted the United States and its president. Netanyahu may get applause in Congress, but all the power is in the White House. What will Netanyahu gain by addressing Congress? I just don't understand it. Is his goal to get a standing ovation? This trip to Washington is doomed to failure."

He criticized the prime minister for ignoring the risks inherent in a direct confrontation with the U.S. administration. "We are protected by the American power of veto. If we are arguing with the White House, we could lose that protection and, within a short space of time, we could find ourselves facing international sanctions."

Israel, Dagan added is already paying a heavy price – "some of them we know about and some of them cannot be discussed."

He questioned what message is sent "when our prime minister says that we don't need information from the talks and that we have our own sources? Does that imply that we are spying on the United States?

"Our position in the international community isn't wonderful right now. The question of Israel's legitimacy is on the agenda. We shouldn't be eroding relations with our most important ally. Certainly, not in public and certainly not by inserting ourselves into domestic American politics. That is not behavior that behooves a prime minister."

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