The man who directly led to the signing of the nuclear deal last year between Iran and six world powers was none other than Israel’s own prime minister — and vociferous opponent of the agreement — Benjamin Netanyahu, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said in an interview aired Thursday, almost two months after his death.
In his final, all-encompassing media interview, aired on Channel 2 Thursday, Dagan tore into Netanyahu for his outspoken resistance to the Iran deal, accusing him of making an enemy of Israel’s closest ally, the United States, and of pursuing personal political interests when he repeatedly and publicly signaled that Israel planned to attack Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“The person who brought about the [Iranian nuclear] deal was Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Dagan told prominent Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan.
When Dayan objected, pointing out that Netanyahu fought against the deal even at the cost of damaging ties with Washington, Dagan seemed agitated, repeatedly saying: “That’s not true, it’s just not true.”
“Netanyahu, at a certain point, started screaming that he would attack Iran. He and the then defense minister [Ehud Barak] said the only way to prevent Iran from getting the bomb was an attack and they spoke about [Israeli] capabilities and IDF readiness and [basically] signaled to the whole world that this is what Israel is going to do,” Dagan said, referring to a spate of reports in 2010 that Israel was getting ready to use the military option to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“As a result, the Americans went into assessment mode…. Their conclusion was that such a war was bad for American interests. And that’s why they looked for an alternative, a deal. They said: ‘we prefer a bad deal over a war,'” Dagan added.
“And so, the person who helped speed up a nuclear deal — with all his screaming and his opposition to it — is the prime minister,” he claimed.
Threatening to attack Iran and speaking out about the nuclear deal “served his political interests,” Dagan charged.
Dagan, a former IDF major general, led Israel’s famed spy agency for eight years. During that time, he said, he did not trust Netanyahu on the Iranian nuclear issue, a sentiment that he said he shared with the Americans.
“On this Iran strike issue, I did not trust him. I still don’t. I see his conduct. Instead of fighting Iran, he’s fighting the US. Instead of Israel working with its closest ally, he’s turned them into an enemy. Does that seem logical to you?” he asked Dayan.
Former CIA head Leon Panetta, who was also interviewed on the program, told Dayan that he’d had conversations with Dagan “in which he indicated the frustrations with them [Netanyahu and Barak] moving forward.”
“I think he was worried that decisions were made for political reasons and I think that troubled him,” said Panetta, adding that Dagan was becoming “very concerned that somebody [would] push the wrong button.”
Panetta told Dayan that the Americans were opposed to a strike on Iran and said so very clearly to Netanyahu and to Barak.
Dagan said in the interview that he, along with the Shin Bet and the army, presented Netanyahu and Barak with enough arguments against an attack on Iran.
In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth published last month, Dagan had called Netanyahu “the worst manager I ever knew.”
In the Channel 2 program Thursday, the former Mossad head also answered questions on other incidents that made headlines during his tenure, including the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010, and the suicide that same year of alleged Mossad agent and Australian national Ben Zygier while in Israeli custody.
“If a person decides to takes his life, no one can stop him,” Dagan said of Zygier, who hanged himself in a maximum security prison while being held for alleged misconduct.
“It’s a tragedy,” Dagan added, and said that not everyone had the personality needed for espionage.
Dagan sounded a defiant tone on the Mabhouh affair, which ended with security footage of a team of alleged Mossad agents involved in the hit being handed by Dubai authorities to the international media.
“Despite how it seems, the damage was zero,” Dagan said, asking Dayan if the fallout had resulted in any arrests of Mossad operatives.
Dagan served for 32 years in the IDF, and is credited with leading some of the IDF’s most daring missions during the Six Day War, Yom Kippur War and First Lebanon War.
In his final years, Dagan became among the most prominent critics of Netanyahu’s aggressive approach on the Iranian and Palestinian issues.
He famously called a Netanyahu speech affirming Israel’s ability to attack Iran “bullshit” and warned that the prime minister’s policies on the Palestinians risked turning Israel into an apartheid state.
Dagan died in March after a long battle with cancer.