In his first public speech since the end of his term as head of Israel's Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Major-General (res.) Meir Dagan said that Israel would be better off if Bashar Assad is deposed from power in Syria.
This scenario would halt aid to Hizbullah, weaken Iran's influence and strengthen Saudi Arabia - all of which are beneficial developments for Israel, he explained.
He assessed, however, that Assad and the minority Alawite sect's regime would fight opposition to the bitter end, because they have no other option. Their choices are "win or die" and they know it, he said.
Dagan predicted that despite the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ruling elite will remain in power and there will not be a drastic change in the country's relationship with Israel. Such a change would be against Egypt's economic interests, Dagan said, and also against other interests.
He was presumably referring to the possibility that Egypt would cancel its peace treaty with Israel, but lose American aid.
Dagan said that the events in Egypt were a change in leadership rather than a revolution.
Regarding Iran, Dagan said Israel must not allow the Persian power to acquire nuclear arms. However, he said, an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear plants "is a stupid idea that has no advantages."
"Whoever attacks in Iran must understand that he may be opening a regional war in which missiles will be fired by Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon," he said. "The Iranian problem needs to be presented as an international problem, and action should continue to be taken to delay Iran's nuclear development."
A deal for releasing Gilad Shalit should be struck, but not at any price, he said. Dagan added that he had conducted research and found that 231 Israelis were killed as a result of the deal for releasing Elchanan Tenenbaum.
Dagan spoke before senior civil servants at Hebrew University.