Ex-Mossad chief says PM misled Congress on Iran breakout time
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Ex-Mossad chief says PM misled Congress on Iran breakout time

Meir Dagan warns Netanyahu's apparent readiness to attack Iran is 'last thing we need,' but adds Israel still has means to thwart Iranian nuke if all else fails

Meir Dagan speaks to Israeli Channel 2, March 6, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Meir Dagan speaks to Israeli Channel 2, March 6, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)

A former head of the Mossad who served for two years under Benjamin Netanyahu launched a bitter assault on the prime minister Friday, saying Netanyahu knowingly misled Congress in parts of his speech on Tuesday, while also claiming that the prime minister came close to attacking Iran some four years ago despite the united opposition of the security services.

Dagan, who led the Mossad for over eight years from August 2002, also warned that Netanyahu’s policies on the Palestinians risked turning Israel into an apartheid state.

In a Channel 2 interview, Dagan said it was “bullshit” for Netanyahu to claim that Iran’s breakout time to the bomb under the terms of a possible deal would be about a year by the US assessment, and even shorter by Israel’s. “The time would be longer,” Dagan said.

Dagan also contradicted Netanyahu’s claim that Iran’s missile program could allow it to deliver a nuclear warhead to “every part of the United States.” Iran’s missiles “cannot reach the US,” he said, adding that Netanyahu knows this.

Dagan said that Netanyahu, in his speech, seemed to signal a readiness to attack Iran, and that this was “the last thing we need.”

He stressed that it would be “almost impossible for Israel” to live with a nuclear Iran, and that if there was no alternative to military intervention to thwart Iran, “then we’ll have to consider it. But I don’t think we have reached that moment.” He said “there are ways” for Israel to thwart Iran.

Dagan, 70, also that said he had feared Netanyahu would launch “a military operation” against Iran during the period when he served under the prime minister, despite the fact that all the heads of the security services opposed such an action. Even if successful, said Dagan, the operation would not have set Iran back “for very long.”

Castigating Netanyahu’s leadership in other areas, Dagan — who has frequently criticized Netanyahu since retiring — said Israel should and could have defeated Hamas in Gaza last summer and enabled Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reassert control of the Strip. He blamed Netanyahu for Israel’s growing international isolation. And he said that Netanyahu’s policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians endangered the Zionist dream.

“The reality being championed by Netanyahu and [Jewish Home party leader Naftali] Bennett will result in a bi-national state. I think that’s a catastrophe,” Dagan said. “In the Palestinian arena, [Netanyahu’s] policy will lead … to apartheid,” he told Channel 2.

The former spymaster will lead a Tel Aviv rally Saturday night to advocate a change of government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands as he leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, after addressing a joint meeting of Congress. (Photo credit: AP/Andrew Harnik)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands as he leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, after addressing a joint meeting of Congress. (Photo credit: AP/Andrew Harnik)

“For 45 years I have served this country — all of them dedicated to safeguarding its security as a Jewish and Zionist state. I don’t want that dream to disappear,” Dagan said.

He said he worried that Israel could become an apartheid state if it did not separate from the Palestinians, and that he had “serious questions” about Israel’s long-term future if it continued to be led in the current direction.

Dagan asserted that his criticisms were “not personal” and that he appreciated Netanyahu’s personal help when he needed a liver transplant and was fighting cancer three years ago.

In response, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud, said it was “unacceptable” for Dagan to have revealed the Mossad’s stance on Iran as presented in cabinet meetings. What is said behind closed doors, must remain there, said Steinitz, adding that Dagan no longer knows what is going at the helm of Israel.

Finance minister Yuval Steinitz (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Specifically, Steinitz said that the US, the UK and France agree that if Iran is allowed to enrich uranium to a certain grade, it will shorten its breakout time to the bomb to less than a year.

When it was asserted that Dagan was voicing the stance of most of the current security establishment in Israel, Steinitz said other security experts think precisely the opposite to Dagan.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has accused Dagan of deceiving the public. “Meir Dagan is wrong and misleading,” it said in a statement Thursday.

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