Former Mossad director Meir Dagan
Former Mossad director Meir Dagan Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) recognize Israel as a Jewish state as “nonsense”.

According to a report Tuesday in the Hebrew-language Walla! website, Dagan made the comments during a lecture he gave in Tel Aviv last week.

Dagan, according to Walla!, said Netanyahu’s demand was unnecessary because the United Nations has already recognized Israel.

"If you are look at the UN resolution on the establishment of Israel from 1947, it says clearly that Israel will be established as a Jewish state," said Dagan. "So now we are demanding such recognition from the Palestinian state? We seek recognition of the character of our country from a country that does not even exist?”

Instead of insisting on recognition as a Jewish state, he added, Israel should insist that there be no “right of return” of millions of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants.

"We need to ensure that the refugees become citizens of the countries where they currently live - from Lebanon to the Gulf states," said the former Mossad head. "Unlike the issue of recognition of Israel, the refugee issue really does endanger the Jewish state."

He stressed that Israel must seek an agreement with the PA "not for the Palestinians, but for Israel."

Netanyahu has said several times that the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not a territorial one and is based on the Arabs’ refusal to recognize the Jewish state. He has said that PA recognition of Israel is essential to a peace agreement.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to recognize Israel. Last week he reiterated that refusal and said that recognizing a Jewish state would be "out of the question." He also said that Egypt and Jordan were not required to recognize Israel when they signed a peace treaty with it.

The PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, insisted this week that the PA's refusal to recognize a Jewish state stems from the fact that Israel maintains control over Judea and Samaria.

"We recognize the State of Israel, but we have not heard Israel recognize the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders," Erekat claimed.

The PA has received backing on this issue from Jordan, whose parliament this week declared it was against Israel’s demand that the PA recognize it as Jewish state.

Dagan’s comments, as reported by Walla!, are not the first time he has criticized Netanyahu’s policies.

Last month Dagan declared that Israel could survive without maintaining a presence in the Jordan Valley. Other experts have warned that Israel’s presence in the area is crucial.

Dagan reportedly stated that he does not care what Palestinian Arabs want, but said that for Israel’s sake, he would like to see the government make concessions to the Palestinian Authority. Failure to do so could lead Israel to become a binational Jewish-Arab state, he warned.

In response to Dagan’s comments, prominent Israeli military historian Aryeh Yitzchaki told Arutz Sheva that those like the former Mossad head who advocate an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley are dangerously mistaken.