Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “the worst manager I knew,” and one of only two prime ministers to put his personal interests above those of the state, according to former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who died last month.
Dagan’s damning comments were made during a series of lengthy conversations before his death from cancer with investigative journalist and senior Yedioth Ahronoth analyst Ronen Bergman.
Yedioth on Monday published an excerpt from the full article, which is due to appear in Friday’s edition.
Dagan, who led the international spy agency for eight years, told Bergman he had known many prime ministers. Although “not one was pure and holy,” but all of them — bar two — put national interests above personal ones.
The two exceptions, he said, were Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
‘The working assumption that a military strike could bring the Iranian nuclear project to a complete halt is inaccurate. That kind of military capability does not exist’ — Meir Dagan
Dagan also claimed Netanyahu was chronically indecisive, recalling occasions when the prime minister would give the green light for a Mossad operation. Afterwards, Dagan would hang around Jerusalem, predicting, the report said, “that [Netanyahu] would soon regret [his decision] or, in Dagan’s words, ‘would not have the balls.'”
“I love falafel, a lot,” the former spy chief said. “Because I knew he would soon call me back in, I would go to the Mahane Yehuda market to buy myself a falafel and wait for a telephone call. I wouldn’t start driving back to Tel Aviv. When I was less certain, I would get to the Kurdish restaurant in Mevasseret [west of Jerusalem] or the hummus place in Abu Ghosh [further toward Tel Aviv], and I’d wait there. The main thing was not to be too far from Jerusalem. Believe me, I can say in retrospect that I was not wrong once. He always called me back.”
Dagan went on to describe Netanyahu as “the worst manager I knew.
“The worst thing was that he has a particular characteristic similar to Ehud Barak — they both think they’re the biggest geniuses in the world, but they don’t know what they really want,” he said. “He’s the only prime minister — think about it — who got to the stage where the disagreement was not personal, but substantial, where the entire security service did not accept his point of view.”
Dagan was referring to Netanyahu’s proposal to attack Iran’s nuclear program, which he, like other Israeli security chiefs, opposed, arguing that a military strike could set back Iran’s nuclear progress, but not stop it.
“The working assumption that a military strike could bring the Iranian nuclear project to a complete halt is inaccurate,” Dagan told Bergman. “That kind of military capability does not exist. All that could be achieved is a suspension (of the Iranian program) — and even that for only a limited period.”
“If Israel attacks, [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei will thank God,” Dagan went on. “It will unite the Iranian people behind the project and enable Khamenei to say that until now, it was a project of peace, but because a terrorist state attacked us, we must change it to a military project in order to defend ourselves.”
In intelligence terms, Dagan thought Iran was further from developing a nuclear bomb than was commonly assumed, even within the intelligence community, the report said.
Asked if he said these kinds of things to Netanyahu and Barak, Dagan indicated that he did. “I expressed my opinion then with the same determination as now,” he said. “Sometimes I raised my voice, because I get annoyed easily and speak with pathos. I think Israel must develop the capability to attack Iran. It’s important that we have the option — but not in order to use it. The costs are greater than the benefits.”
In a response, the Prime Minister’s Office said Dagan’s remarks had “severely harmed” Israel’s struggle against Iran’s nuclear program.
Ehud Barak’s office said: “I admired and loved Meir, but like all of us, Meir also made mistakes, sometimes in his judgment of people and sometimes of situations.”
A retired military general, Dagan served for 32 years as an Israel Defense Forces officer, reaching the rank of major general. He is credited with leading some of the IDF’s most daring missions, and served in the Six Day War, Yom Kippur War and First Lebanon War.
In his final years, Dagan was one of the most prominent critics of Netanyahu’s hard-line approach towards Iran and the Palestinians.
He famously called a Netanyahu speech on attacking Iran “bullshit” and warned that the prime minister’s policies on the Palestinians risked turning Israel into an apartheid state.