Former Mossad spy agency chief Meir Dagan accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday of having caused Israel “heavy strategic damage on the Iranian issue” by antagonizing the US leadership, and said the premier had brought “intolerable” risk upon the nation by endangering its ties with Washington.
Meanwhile, Haaretz reported Friday that Dagan would be the main speaker in a rally against Netanyahu that will be held in Tel Aviv on March 7, ten days before the elections.
Netanyahu’s already rocky relationship with the Obama administration has sunk to unprecedented lows in recent weeks over his address to the US Congress on March 3. The White House opposes the speech — which will be held at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner and was agreed upon without coordination with the administration — viewing it as an attempt by Netanyahu to derail the US-brokered nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Netanyahu, for his part, says it is his duty to speak to US lawmakers about the dangers posed by a deal that he fears would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state.
But many of the prime minister’s Israeli and American critics say the speech has only served to further damage bilateral ties. It may have in fact had the opposite effect than that desired by Netanyahu, stymieing the possibility of Congress acting against a deal by rallying Democrats to the president’s side over the perceived offense.
“What will Netanyahu achieve in this trip? I don’t understand,” Dagan asked Yedioth Ahronoth. “What is his goal? Applause? This trip is doomed from the get-go.
“An Israeli prime minister who enters into conflict with an American administration must ask himself what are the risks,” Dagan stated.
“The veto umbrella provided by the Americans could vanish, and Israel would promptly find itself facing international sanctions. The risks in this confrontation are intolerable.”
Dagan added that Netanyahu was only giving Iran cause for celebration. “They feel they’ve managed to stick a wedge between Israel and its ally.”
For all his tough rhetoric on Iran, Dagan said Netanyahu had backed down from taking military action against Iran in the past because “all of the professional bodies were opposed”.
“He knew that the responsibility would fall on him,” Dagan added. “I’ve never in my life seen him take responsibility for anything. I’ve seen leaders who made decisions and later admitted — we were wrong. The difference between him and others is the willingness to take responsibility. He’s good with words, not actions.”
Dagan also attacked Netanyahu over his handling of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“What did we achieve? Nothing, other than a ceasefire that will be broken when Hamas decides,” he said. “Netanyahu handled things the wrong way. The only thing that interested him was getting photographed with maps. They say Netanyahu acted responsibly. Responsibly? It was a cover-up for doing nothing. There was no thought process for what they wanted to achieve with this operation.”
The rally which Dagan will spearhead on March 7 will be held at Rabin Square under the title “Israel wants change.”
“After six years of failure, we demand to bring back hope,” organizers wrote on the rally’s Facebook page. “Let’s call out together: ‘Israel wants change – the people demand the leadership’s replacement.'”
It has been reported in the past that Dagan in 2010 refused an order by Netanyahu to prepare for a strike on Iran.
Channel 2 news reported in 2012 that Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak ordered their security chiefs to have the military ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities within hours if necessary.
But Dagan reportedly retorted that the order, if followed, might lead to a war based on an illegal decision. And then-army chief Gabi Ashkenazi, reportedly declaring that such an attack would be “a strategic mistake,” also warned that the very order to prepare for a strike might set in motion a deterioration into war even if Israel didn’t actually choose to launch one.
The report cited sources close to Ashkenazi and Dagan — who since stepping down from their respective posts have both been outspoken in their opposition to a strike on Iran — to the effect that as the two men were leaving the meeting, Netanyahu “matter-of-factly” instructed them to initiate the “P Plus” code, which is essentially a readying of the military to imminently launch an attack.
Ashkenazi and Dagan reportedly vehemently objected to the order. “You may end up going to war based on an illegal decision,” the former intelligence chief was quoted as saying. “Only the security cabinet is authorized to make such a decision.”
Later, Dagan would say that “the prime minister and the defense minister tried to steal a war – it was as simple as that.”