The Israeli Air Force bid farewell this week to outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan in a special ceremony.
During the modest event, which was attended by Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan, Dagan concluded eight successful years in office and spoke to senior commanders in the IAF.
Dagan emphasized the great importance of the Air Force, referred to it as a strategic arm of the IDF, and expressed his confidence in its activities.
Members of the corps gave Dagan a unique parting gift in the form of a picture which outlines some of the special operations in which the IAF and the Mossad co-operated (some of which, naturally, cannot be discussed).
One of those operations in which the two institutions collaborated could be Israel’s bombing of a nuclear reactor in Syria in September of 2007. The installation which was bombed was meant to produce plutonium, and was partially funded by North Korea. Israel bombed the reactor before it attained its planned capacity to manufacture plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The attack was never officially confirmed until Former U.S. President George W. Bush wrote about it in his recently published book, “Decision Points”. In the book Bush wrote that then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked him to bomb the nuclear site under construction in Syria. Bush consulted with security officials who rejected the request based on analyses that although the site was definitely for a nuclear reactor, it was not clear that Syrian President Bashar Assad intended to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Subsequently, Israel bombed the reactor.
The souvenir Dagan received from the IAF also included another picture that hung in his office. The picture shows Dagan’s grandfather kneeling before Nazi soldiers in Poland during World War II. The picture was taken mere moments before Dagan’s grandfather was murdered and has previously been referred by Dagan as something which guides him and causes him to understand his deep commitment to ensure that no one can threaten the Jewish people ever again.
In his recent farewell remarks to Dagan, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to the same photograph:
“I sat in your office and I saw a photograph on the wall of a Jew with a beard, a religious Jew, kneeling before Nazi soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “This picture caught my eye and I asked you - who is this? You said, it's my grandfather. I asked you, what happened to him? And you told me, they murdered him. Then I said - 'Meir, I understand you. Now I understand you. I understand your deep commitment to ensure that no one will be able to once again fulfill the threat of extinction against the Jewish people. It is a personal and national obligation, and you acted in accordance with it.”
Dagan was born in 1945 as Meir Huberman in Russia, to Holocaust survivors. In 1963 he joined the IDF’s Sayeret Matkal and subsequently served in the Paratroopers Brigade. He commanded paratroopers fighting in the Sinai during the Six Day War in 1967 and towards its end took part, along with his troops, in the conquering of the Golan Heights. In 1970 he established an undercover commando unit known as Sayeret Rimon whose job was to fight Arab terrorism in Gaza. In 2002 he was named Mossad chief by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.