Former Mossad chief, Israeli minister trade accusations at New York conference

Meir Dagan defends statements made by former Shin Bet security service chief, criticizing Netanyahu and Barak over Iran; Minister Gilad Erdan says Dagan sabotaging international efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program; Ex-PM Olmert joins in defense of Dagan, Diskin.

 

An embarrassing confrontation broke out on Sunday during a panel discussion at a New York conference, when former Mossad chief Meir Dagan accused Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan of lying, while Erdan replied that Dagan is sabotaging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to put a halt to Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and former Mossad chief Dagan, New York, April 29, 2012.

Former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and former Mossad chief Dagan at the New York conference, April 29, 2012 - Photo by Mark Yisrael Salem

At the conference, sponsored by the Jerusalem Post in New York, the two also exchanged harsh words after Dagan warned Erdan over the so-called “Dagan law,” forbidding former security officials to issue open statements until a certain cooling period wears off.

“You know where the journey begins, you don’t know where it ends,” Dagan told the audience. Erdan, who thought Dagan said “Germany” instead of “journey,” asked to speak and harshly criticized Dagan.

The exchange erupted after Dagan was asked about statements made by former head of the Shin Bet security service Yuval Diskin. Diskin criticized Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday over their bellicose stance on Iran, as well as what he called the premier’s unwillingness to advance peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Dagan said that Diskin was his friend, and added that he “spoke his own truth.” “Diskin is a very serious man, a very talented man, he has a lot of experience in countering terrorism,” he said, adding that he “talked about a matter that is close to his heart.” Dagan also dismissed criticism of Diskin for not voicing his opinion to Netanyahu and Barak earlier. According to Dagan, Diskin had done so “in close quarters and on many occasions.”

Erdan replied that “if Diskin thinks things are so dangerous, he should not have stayed in his post for five years and agree to a sixth year. He should have resigned.” Dagan intervened at this point and countered that “I may be impolite, but I prefer the truth be told.”

Erdan then said he would prefer if “Mossad chiefs do not sabotage Netanyahu’s efforts to garner the world’s support against Iran. He also referred to Diskin’s description of Barak and Netanyahu’s “messianic tendencies,” and asked, “Is this how a serious man, as you describe him, speaks?”

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also present at the conference, came out in defense of Dagan and Diskin, saying that they have “contributed much more to the safety of Israel than those who are criticizing them.”

With Dagan and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi sitting next to him on the stage, Olmert responded to Erdan’s criticisms while the envionmental protection minister was still on stage too, saying, “These people are not necessarily enemies of Israel. And we have to ask – what has happened that all the leaders of Israel’s security services suddenly think in the same way?”

Olmnert went on to ask, “Until they expressed their opinion in public they were brave and admired fighters – and suddenly they are enemies of Israel, suddenly they don’t care about Israel’s security?”

Earlier on Sunday, Dagan said that Iran’s leadership is using “smart” diplomacy to advance its nuclear program, and that the Iranian threat is not a “quarrel” between Israel and Iran, but an international issue.

Dagan described President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime as “smart” and “a master of diplomacy that heads forward consistently to achieve its nuclear objectives.”

 

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By Chemi Shalev and Haaretz

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