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photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, June 21, 2013

[Editor's note: I have spent the last couple of days attending the Shimon Peres Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on June 19 and 20, 2013. The following is the first in a series of articles I will be writing on the conference.]

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan made headlines here in Israel when he said at the Shimon Peres Presidential Conference in Jerusalem that it would be possible to defend Israel from the 1967 borders.

[Note: Interestingly enough Israel Hayom ran this comment as its headline, but Ha'aretz English edition failed to report on this comment at all, missing the story.]  

On the issue of Israel’s security, former Ambassador Dore Gold said that pulling out of the Jordan River valley would amount to a “national disaster.”

"At this point, considering we have uncertainty and a new round of threats, it becomes incumbent on Israel to guarantee its future, to make sure it continues to adopt a principle of defensive borders,” Gold  told the audience.

Dagan, however, countered: “If the political need will be as such that the Jordan Valley will not be in Israeli hands, I think the IDF will have a unique ability to protect Israel on those borders.” 

Dagan added: “I don’t like every aspect of the Arab Peace Initiative, but as a starting point to sit down and discuss, it is a vital necessity for Israel to do it.”

In the panel session, Dagan took the position that Israel should seize the current moment of regional unrest to “reassert our presence in the Middle East” and called the restarting of peace negotiations with the Palestinians a “vital necessity.”

“The best use of our time is not to sit and wait, but rather, we should take initiative and seek opportunities,” Dagan said during a panel discussion at the fifth Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday. “The interests of Israel, the Gulf countries, and even the Palestinians, to a certain extent, and even Egypt lie together.”

Dagan said conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and the removal of Arab dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi have created a “unique opportunity for Israel to seek different alliances.” 

Regarding Palestinian refugees, Dagan rejected the notion of Palestinian refugees returning to Israel. He said the solution would be to work with Arab states to create areas in which these Palestinian refugees could be resettled permanently.

Since leaving the Mossad, Dagan has begun consulting for several energy firms, among them Arcanum Global (Dagan has gotten himself into a lucrative position as there is going to be promised profits in exploiting Mediterranean energy reserves). Arcanum was founded by prominent Arab-American, Ron Wahid. 

It has consulted for parties to several contentious energy-related disputes in places like Kazakhstan and the Emirates.

One Israeli journalist that the WJR spoke with suggested that Dagan’s business interests line up with his recent political positions, in that Arcanum is founded by an Arab-American.

Dagan is also currently chairman of an Israeli energy firm, Gulliver Energyan oil, gas and minerals exploration firm based near Tel Aviv

In last year's Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, where Dagan also spoke, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked him what he thought about Ephrim Halevy's position that Israel ought to dialogue with Hamas. Halevy preceded Dagan as Mossad Chief. Dagan responded that Halevy was a friend and he chose not to comment on Halevy's position. In last year's conference Dagan also cautioned against Israel using the military option against Iran, a position he has repeatedly spoken about. In 2012,  when Dagan was interviewed in English on CBS's 60 Minutes he warned that Iranian retaliation would make daily life unbearable in Israel. Dagan said Iran's leaders are "rational," in a way that suggested that they could be persuaded to halt their nuclear work.

As the Times of Israel Reported in April 2013,  Dagan, who headed the Mossad for almost a decade came out against PM Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of setting "red lines" for Iran's nuclear program, saying that the Islamic Republic 's effort to develop nuclear weapons can be countered at any time.

“As opposed to the stance of the Prime Minister, I think Iran’s [nuclear] armament can always be delayed.” 

In an interview with Israeli T.V.'s Channel 2 television, Dagan alluded ta fateful meeting during which he, then-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, and then-chief of the General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi met with Netanyahu, and  then-defense minister Ehud Barak and other members of the cabinet in a Mossad club room to discuss attacking Iran.

During the meeting, all three of the security echelon reportedly defied Netanyahu and Barak’s order that the military prepare for an Israeli solo strike on Iran. They also eventually convinced several key ministers to take their side.

Dagan said that it could be tantamount to being an illegal order as only the security cabinet could make such an order. According to Dagan, the very act of preparing the Israeli army for the possibility of launching a strike could cause the Iranians to ready their troops and “as a result you can enter an impossible reality in which everyone is preparing for war, while it’s possible no one wants it.”

Dagan was born as Meir Huberman on a train between the Soviet Union and Poland during the Holocaust to Polish Jewish parents who had fled Poland for the Soviet Union several years before. Dagan's maternal grandfather Ber Erlich Sloshny, was killed by the Nazis. In 2009, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published two photos of Nazi soldiers standing next to a kneeling Sloshny shortly before they shot him. During his term as Director-General of the Mossad, it was reported that Dagan kept one of the photographs hanging in his office.

Dagan and his parents survived the Holocaust, and in 1950, the family made aliyah to Israel. During the ship's approach to Israel, it encountered a storm, during which Meir stood on the stern, praying to reach the shore safely. The family initially lived in a "Ma'abarah" immigrant camp in Lod before settling in Bat Yam, where Dagan grew up. His parents ran a laundry business.

Dagan, who studied painting and sculpture at the Tel-Aviv University, is a painter. "I like to paint portraits," he told the Winnipeg Jewish Review. 


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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