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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Israel Strips Passport of Ex-Mossad Chief Who Warned of Iran War Plans

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies have apparently had enough of Meir Dagan, the recently retired chief of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

After weeks of condemning the Israeli leadership for war mongering over Iran, Dagan has been stripped of his diplomatic passport, according to news reports.

Netanyahu & co. were probably right to be worried: Dagan was about to go global, with plans for trips abroad. Until now, except for the New York Times, which covers Jerusalem more closely than the Bronx, there’s been remarkably little attention here to an astonishing series of statements by Dagan, who has called Israel’s leaders  “reckless and irresponsible” for their constant saber-rattling over Iran.

As The Times reported on June 3, Dagan “made headlines a few weeks ago when he asserted at a Hebrew University conference that a military attack on Iran would be 'a stupid idea.'

“This week Mr. Dagan, speaking at Tel Aviv University, said that attacking Iran ‘would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.’ He added, ‘The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.’

“Mr. Dagan went on to complain that Israel had failed to put forward a peace initiative with the Palestinians and that it had foolishly ignored the Saudi peace initiative promising full diplomatic relations in exchange for a return to the 1967 border lines. He worried that Israel would soon be pushed into a corner,” the Times continued.

“On Thursday he got more specific, naming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but this time through a leaked statement to journalists. The statement had to do with his belief that his retirement and the retirement of other top security chiefs had taken away a necessary alternative voice in decision making.”

Israeli commentators have been mystified by Dagan’s outspokenness.

“Meir Dagan is no fool,” wrote David Horovitz in the Jerusalem Post.

“He may be feisty and opinionated… But you don’t run the Mossad for eight years, retaining the respect of an elite body of supremely confident and capable operatives, and preside over innumerable successful missions, many of them so sensitive as to remain classified for years to come, if you’re not resourceful, innovative, skilled and exceedingly smart.”

Dagan's remarks would be worrisome enough even if he were but a lone voice in the Israeli wilderness. But other retired spy chiefs, including Amos Yadlin, who recently stepped down as chief of military intelligence, have echoed Dagan’s worry that their recent departures have taken the brakes off the Netanyahu government’s urge to make war on Iran--and draw us into it.

As another former Mossad official, Gad Shimron, put it,  “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and that is the decision-making process.

“The leadership makes fiery statements, we stepped on the brakes, we are no longer there and we don’t know what will happen. And that’s why we are saying this aloud.”

Why it isn’t being “said out loud” -- very loud -- in official Washington, is beyond me.

According to some of the ex-Mossad chief’s Israeli critics, “The White House and Capitol Hill expressed shock and anger” after Dagan’s remarks in May.

Really? It passed me by. None of these officials who were allegedly up in high dudgeon were named.

Only the Times, among major media, has given prominence to Dagan’s remarks, which caused but a ripple of concern here. The Washington Post has carried three A.P. stories on Dagan's remarks--on its Web site.

One would think that charges by several former top Israeli intelligence officials that Netanyahu & co. are trying to drag us into war with Iran would be big news.

But one would be wrong. There’s hardly been a peep about it.

I suppose that’s why Dagan wanted to travel abroad--and why he was stripped of his diplomatic passport. Maybe if he sounded the same war warnings in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, somebody would take more serious notice.

But that’s not to be.

According to an Israeli news report, “Netanyahu's associates and advisers in the prime minister's bureau said Dagan had acted without ‘national responsibility’ when he warned against an Israeli attack on Iran.”

Get this: “They accused Dagan of perpetrating ‘sabotage against democratic institutions in Israel.’”

Really? Orwell would be proud.