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March 20, 2012 9:26 pm

Former Mossad Head Meir Dagan’s Political Motivation

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Meir Dagan on 60 minutes. Photo: Screenshot.

Having recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Israel, and as an avid follower of Middle East related news and headlines, I was excited to attend an intimate private breakfast meeting today with Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad. To me, anyone with such credentials, is someone who has certainly done amazing work to further the ideals of the State of Israel. Dagan is deserving of perpetual appreciation for his accomplishments, his valor and his commitment to the Jewish state. Yet despite all that he deserves praise for, I was surprised to hear a lot of discussion on internal Israeli politics and policies (issues seemingly having little to do with that which he is known for – the Mossad).

When he spoke of Egypt, he suggested that the country will be preoccupied with its own internal problems for a very long time.  As for Bashar al-Assad and Syria, he believes that his regime will not give up easily, nor should anyone expect a new Syrian regime anytime soon, as Syria is funded by Iran, and both China and Russia support Assad, Dagan expects a long bloody feud with no end in sight. It is no secret that President Obama puts a good deal of faith in Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but Dagan said that he is sick and is not likely to live long. He does see Israel’s relationship with Turkey improving over time, not worsening.

Dagan also believes that Arab leaders from other nations not yet making front page news will pay lip service to broader calls for reform – so they should he says, to ensure that there will be quiet. He sees Arab leaders making minimal governmental changes while paying off certain Arab families and leaders to lay low for a while and let the tide pass. Of course, he believes that peace and dialogue can never be possible with Hamas. Dagan then broached the issue of Iran, saying much of the same as he said to media outlets such as 60 Minutes and others. His experience allows him valuable insight, making his conclusions as credible as anyone who has been on the front lines of securing Israel’s place in the world.

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Interestingly, Dagan’s military and foreign affairs assessment made up less than half of his presentation. He devoted the remainder of the time to presenting his theories on internal political and social matters of Israel, such as his opinions on the people and the government. It is here where objectivity disappeared.

“The government is unable to govern the country of Israel,” he declared, as he attacked the politics and policies of the prime minister and the cabinet. “Israel is not controlled by the majority of the people,” he stated with certainty. Then he accused the “Yeshivas [of] cheating the State of Israel.”

It is possible he didn’t mean it, or perhaps the message was garbled by his less than perfect English, what he said is not correct. His statements made in a foreign country are misleading and can be used to the advantage of Israel’s enemies. For example, when queried he clarified his comments about the yeshivas and the ultra orthodox, agreeing that he was referring to a segment of the ultra orthodox and yeshiva community, not all. Yet, without a follow up explanation, his comments, heard by a foreign audience can be misconstrued.

People who are coming to hear the former head of the Mossad speak, might expect an assessment of Israel’s might or defense strategy (and this in itself would be very interesting).  Yet, most of his presentation was not relevant to Dagan’s Mossad background, and appeared to be more like that of a closeted political leftist. Do people who hear him in the U.S. understand that his personal opinions and professional assessments are independent of one another? Likely not!

When a foreign dignitary speaks, we tend to take what is said as an official position, begging the question of whether an American audience -made up largely of non Jews and people who do not really follow Israel as closely as a Jewish organization might – is the right crowd for Dagan to air his opinions on internal Israeli issues. When asked why he felt the need to present these issues in America, Dagan angrily said “I don’t serve the Prime Minister of the State of Israel,” and “I have done more for Israel than the Prime Minister and Defense Minister combined.”

While he may in fact be correct, one wonders at the very least if Dagan should undergo better media-training, or perhaps hire a Public Relations firm to help him hone his message. While he may be an accomplished military leader, he’s now a private citizen who is using his Mossad stripes overseas to push his personal political agenda. An amazing military man doesn’t necessarily make a great politician.

What would happen if upon leaving office the next head of the Mossad announced that “Israel should kill all the Arabs”, or that the price of milk should be much higher? This would be tantamount to a former United States Attorney General speaking in London, France, or elsewhere on issues relating to national transportation, or healthcare for example.

As Israeli Knesset Member Danny Danon has suggested the “Dagan Bill” should be passed in the Knesset implementing a mandatory cooling-off period before former senior security officials are allowed to speak to the press. It is no wonder that the State of Israel has asked Dagan to surrender his diplomatic passport.

His presentation before an exclusive audience at a private bank in New York this morning where he was accompanied by a fundraiser from his newly formed NGO, was clearly one of a left of center politician – not the legendary spymaster.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR, a Top 25 PR agency and has a best-selling PR book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations” an Amazon best selling Public Relations book available for purchase here. The book was referred to by Likud Knesset MK Danny Danon as the “best book ever written regarding Israel’s PR.”

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