Recently retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan, fresh from calling a military attack on Iran “the stupidest thing I ever heard,” said at a conference in Tel Aviv that Israel should embrace the Saudi peace plan.
He also said he has been speaking out against the prime minister’s policies since leaving the Mossad in January because “when I was on the job, I, (ex-Shin Bet chief) Diskin and (ex-IDF chief of staff) Ashkenazi could restrain any dangerous adventurism. Now I’m afraid there’s nobody to stop Bibi and Barak.”
Here is an account from the Sydney Morning Herald with some quotes from Dagan on the Saudi plan. (Dagan retired in January after nine years as director of the Mossad, and is a legend among security hawks. Here’s an interesting profile that shows where his reputation comes from.
The comments on Bibi and Barak don’t seem to be on the Web - they appear in Friday’s Yediot print edition. Dagan made his comments, according to Yediot, during a “closed meeting” at Tel Aviv University. Besides discussing the Saudi plan and his fears of Bibi’s recklessness and Barack’s enabling, Dagan also repeated his contention from January that attacking Iran is “the stupidest thing I ever heard.”
By implication, Dagan also confirmed what I have been writing in the past few weeks, that Bibi and Barak have managed in the past six months to remove the entire top echelon of the Israeli security establishment and replace it with a more compliant leadership that won’t talk back or raise hard questions (hence “there’s nobody left to stop Bibi and Barak”). The outgoing leadership was unanimously opposed to Bibi’s saber rattling on Iran and overwhelmingly in favor of renewing talks with the Palestinians ASAP. What this means is agreeing to resume talks where Olmert and Abu Mazen left off in October 2008, agreeing to the 1967 lines as the basis for the talks (as Dagan implies in calling for the Saudi plan) rather than insisting on starting again from scratch and dismissing all the concessions mooted up to that point, as Bibi has been demanding.
I know I’m going to hear that there are ex-generals who disagree, like former IDF chief of staff Moshe Boogie Yaalon, now Bibi’s deputy prime minister. That’s a good point. I can name you another: former
chief of Northern Command Yossi Peled, now a Likud lawmaker. That’s pretty much the list.
Oh yes - plus two of Bibi-Barak’s most prominent recent appointees - former Major General Yaakov Amidror, recently appointed director of the National Security Council, and former chief of central command Yair Naveh, installed last fall as deputy chief of staff. Funny thing - they happen to be two of the very few Orthodox Jews to have made it to General Staff level.
Dagan’s reason for endorsing the Saudi plan, as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, is that Israeli leaders should “take the initiative” in order to “put the ball in [the Palestinians’] court.”
“Let them have the dilemma. Since 1994 [shortly after the Oslo agreements], every time that Israel has taken the initiative it has created a good situation for us,” Mr Dagan said. “Today’s leadership does not connect with responsibility. But leadership has a deep connection with responsibility.
Here is Ynet’s account (in English) of the Dagan statement. It’s light on quotes from Dagan but has some reactions from others, notably former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri, who agrees with Dagan, and former National Security Council chief Giora Eiland, who (rather incoherently, I’m afraid) doesn’t see the point.
What’s not said in either of these reports, but seems obvious, is that Dagan doesn’t see the Saudi plan as a threat to Israel. Presumably he means the plan should not be accepted as is, but adopted as a basis for talks. The plan itself calls for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 without mentioning adjustments. It also calls for a solution to the refugee problem that is both “agreed” and “in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194,” which is a contradiction in terms—Resolution 194 says that 1948 refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” which Israel won’t conceivably agree to.
Here’s the actual text of the Saudi/Arab peace plan, which was approved by the Arab League in 2002. It calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines, establishment of a Palestinian state and a “just” and “agreed” solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, “in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.” ( Here’s the actual text of 194.) In return for those steps, the peace plan says, the Arab states would
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region. II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).