Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan Laid to Rest in State Funeral

'You were a living legend,' President Reuven Rivlin said in his eulogy. 'All your life you fought evil, but you remained a sensitive human being.'

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who died at the age of 71, is laid to rest in Rosh Pina, Israel, March 20, 2016.
Rami Shalosh

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan was laid to rest Sunday afternoon in the military cemetery in Rosh Pina.

Some 800 people came to pay their last respects to Dagan, who died on Thursday at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer. The funeral was attended by numerous high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, former President Shimon Peres, ministers, Knesset members and senior security officials both past and present. Dagan is survived by his wife and three children.

Rivlin, in his eulogy, retold the story of how Dagan, a major general in the Israel Defense Forces before becoming Mossad chief, had always kept a picture of his grandfather being humiliated by the Nazis in his office. “You were a living legend,” Rivlin said. “All your life you fought evil, but you remained a sensitive human being.”

Netanyahu said that Rosh Pina, the founding of which was a milestone in Zionist history, was a fitting place for Dagan to be buried. He also mentioned the story of Dagan’s picture of his grandfather, adding, “At the moment of truth, we must be capable of defending ourselves and not be dependent on the kindness of others.”

Speaking of his long working relationship with Dagan, Netanyahu said, “I was always impressed by his love of the country. He was a Zionist patriot. Meir Dagan was aware of the danger of radical Islam. He was completely immersed in his mission – to bolster our deterrent power and our intelligence power, including through groundbreaking methods.” 

"In a changing Middle East," Netanyahu continued, “There are risks, but also opportunities.” Those opportunities include cooperation with Arab states – whose seeds were sown, inter alia, by Dagan, he noted.

Peres said that Dagan “never gave up. Not to a drawn sword, not to a painful truth and not in his battle for peace. He was a leader from birth. It wasn’t by chance that warriors followed him in battle in both open and secret places. The people trusted him ... Under his command, which comprised a combination of wisdom, daring, creativity and a winning dash of chutzpah, the Mossad became the best organization in the world. Today, more than ever, we need this organization’s quality and professionalism.”

Dagan was born in Ukraine in 1945 to parents who survived the Holocaust. A career soldier, he reached the rank of major general, then served as Mossad chief from 2002 to 2011. 

In 2012, he underwent a liver transplant operation in Belarus. He had the operation in Belarus because Israeli law permits liver transplants only until age 65, and he was already 67. The transplant was successful, but he later developed complications, and over the past few months, his health deteriorated.