Remove Shalit Negotiator Now

Hagai Hadas' conduct in a medical fraud case revealed his superficiality - not a trait expected of a diligent intelligence officer.

Hagai Hadas, the official tasked with securing Gilad Shalit's release, has shown contempt for the public's intelligence. He is convinced that Israelis' collective memory does not extend beyond 24 hours. Only this can explain how he could have so brazenly issued a statement riddled with contradictions on Thursday.

In the latest official statement released on his behalf, he claims to having been only marginally involved with a business venture that supposedly developed a sticker warning of an impending heart attack. Yet, all throughout last week, Hadas made statements that were completely to the contrary. He said he personally researched the technology at the core of the sticker Life Keeper claims to have developed. He asserted that part of the money the British-Taiwanese company MSI allegedly agreed to pay the Israeli venture had already been deposited. He even went so far as to say that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had already approved the sticker. When media reports identified Hadas as a member of Life Keeper's board of directors, he did not even bother to issue a denial.

His frequent volte-faces shed light on contradictions that scream to the high heavens. Hadas' involvement in the failed project is anything but negligible - it is both substantial and significant. This much was confirmed by his partner in the project, Dr. Gavriel Picker, the company's chief executive who resigned after realizing his association with a crook like Arik Klein.

Both Hadas' conduct and statements are littered with deception. Whoever falsely claims to have obtained approval for a medical device from the world's most important agency misleads the public. Does this constitute proper conduct by someone occupying a sensitive government position for which he receives a monthly salary of NIS 20,000 at the taxpayer's expense? His predecessors, it is worth mentioning, took the job on a volunteer basis.

Hadas even went so far as to claim in Friday's edition of Yedioth Ahronoth that he relied on Klein's services in his new post as government envoy to the Shalit talks and in his prior work in Mossad.

If until today Mossad was embarrassed by Hadas' antics, now the agency is fuming. He embroiled its name in a defrauding scandal and tied it to a swindler. In so doing, he besmirched the name of the organization for which he worked and harmed its members' reputation.

The anger is all the greater because none of his statements are truthful. The Mossad never enlisted Klein's services nor is it familiar with him in any way. Up until four years ago, Hadas was the Mossad's third most senior official; he even was a candidate to head the organization. Ultimately, it was the current head, Meir Dagan, who prevented his promotion to deputy chief and, for all practical purposes, assured his ouster from the agency. Maybe now it is understandable why Dagan had doubts about whether Hadas would have made a worthy deputy.

If Hadas possessed even the slightest bit of integrity or self-respect, as is expected of a courageous and decorated warrior like him, he would at least have admitted his errors, apologized and washed his hands of the entire affair. Instead, he chose to entangle himself in a web of contradictions that border on lies. One would expect a public official to resign under such circumstances. However, it seems as though Hadas lacks the integrity and sound judgment for such a move. His conduct in this case of medical fraud revealed his superficiality - not a trait expected of a thorough, diligent intelligence officer. His behavior testifies to serious character flaws, an inability to make decisions and serious limitations in his ability to grasp reality. It is sad to see how a former senior operations officer in the Mossad could become entangled in a scandal that puts a huge stain on his past record.

But this is not Hadas' personal problem - it is a public problem. Each day Hadas remains in his post he is liable to further damage the efforts to free Shalit. Hamas is probably aware of this and will know how to exploit his shortcomings in the negotiations for Shalit's release. It is incumbent on the prime minister to request that Hadas leave his post immediately, not only for the sake of the public good but also for the benefit of the campaign to secure the abducted soldier's release. If not, this sticker will also stick to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.