Who will have the courage to tame Netanyahu?

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 4 June 2011 in Diary
The former head of Mossad Meir Dagan has attacked Israel's government as "irresponsible and reckless" and praised Arab attempts to find peace. This is no fit of pique, though - Dagan is well-respected abroad and his countrymen would do well to listen to him, says Jerry Hayes

This morning, whilst wading though the usual Fleet Street Saturday piss and wind about venal politicians, Simon Cowell  and why most people think the Ed Miliband is a bit of a knob, I stumbled upon a small but deadly story in the Guardian.

It concerns an outburst by the recently retired head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, attacking his Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for being reckless and irresponsible in threatening to attack Iranian nuclear facilities and not doing enough to broker peace with the Palestinians.

It made the hairs on my neck prickle and sent a very nasty shiver down my spine. For Dagan is no hand wringing, bleeding heart, woolly headed peacenik. He was appointed by Arial Sharon to run Mossad “with a knife between his teeth”.

This is the man who conducted lethal black ops and sent assassination squads against terrorist leaders throughout the world, causing diplomatic outrage and perpetual headaches for the Foreign Ministry. But it was effective.

In his office there was a photograph on his wall of an old Jew standing on the edge of a grave with a rifle pointed at his head by an SS officer. Emotive, telling and a warning. This old Jew was Dagan’s grandfather. “We should be strong, use our brain and defend ourselves so that the Holocaust will never be repeated”.

Dagan is a hard line right winger who “ate Arabs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” He personally ordered the assassination of one of Hamas’s most powerful leaders whilst he was in Dubai. You would have thought he would be cheering Likud to attack Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

But he knows such actions would be reckless, irresponsible and lead to a regional war of such proportions that could put the very existence of Israel in serious jeopardy.

He also supports the international view, recently endorsed by Obama, that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders.

Worryingly, Ben Caspit, a well respected writer on the Middle Eastern affairs commented, “when this man says the leadership has no vision and is irresponsible we should not be sleeping at night”.

There are a number of questions here. Is this just a fit of pique by Dagan over a power struggle he lost with Netanyahu? Possible, but unlikely. Dagan is listened to and respected by foreign intelligence agencies. He is not a politician on the make.

Could it be that he is concerned that Israel has already put in motion plans to attack Iran and this is an attempt to let wiser heads prevail? More likely. Netanyahu is way ahead in the polls and his hawkish speech in Congress delighted the neo-cons and horrified anyone without a red neck and knuckles that drag on the ground.

The wise head to watch is Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, Nobel prize winner and twice Prime Minister.

Many years ago I visited him in Israel. And in a charming, but heavily accented voice, he told me this:

“Mr Hayes, in my country we have an utterly incompetent government and more powerful weapons than the whole of NATO trained on us. They could attack as at any moment. But all of this is not as serious as your poll tax”.

A wise man indeed.   

Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Meir Dagan, Obama, Poll tax, Shimon Peres

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