Dagan at Netanya College
Photo: Ido Erez
Dagan doubts 'Arab Spring'
Former Mossad chief says Arab regimes being destabilized by 'preexisting rifts, conflicts' which are now taking form of protests, violence; adds Sunni regime good replacement for Assad, as it would hinder Hezbollah

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan doubted the 'Arab Spring' Tuesday and said a Sunni government could succeed that of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which may inhibit Hezbollah.


Speaking at a Netanya College ceremony in which he received an honorary degree, Dagan urged listeners not to make too much of the 'Arab Spring'.



"Difficult times are destabilizing regimes all around us. They have received labels such as 'Arab Spring' and 'Democratic Tsunami', but I would recommend not making too much of labels and definitions because a deeper look reveals rifts and conflicts that existed before and which have been swept under the rug, but are now bursting out in the form of protests and in many places purposeful violence," he said.


But Dagan also allowed for a sliver of optimism, saying that Sunnis may replace the current Alawite regime in Syria.


"They may not be lovers of Israel, but there is no doubt this would harm Hezbollah, weaken it, harm the strategic backing it receives from Syria, minimize the Iranian influence in the field, increase influence by Saudi Arabia and Gulf States on it, and increase chances it will open up to the West," Dagan said.


He added that the Iranian nuclear threat is not only a threat to Israel. "It is a central challenge for states that reside along the Persian Gulf, the free world, and the US," he told a Netanya College ceremony.


Dagan also finds Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood threatening to regional calm. "Here it is also correct to say that Israel is not alone," he said. "This situation requires regional cooperation and the challenges we face are also those of neighbor states and the entire free world."


The former Mossad chief also addressed the Palestinian unity agreement, saying it "poses difficulties".


"The deal is taken advantage of and casts question marks over the very fact of our existence and the existence of the State of Israel. It affects our status in the world. We must find a way to end the conflict," he said.


Dagan also made light of recent orders stripping him of his diplomatic passport, saying, "At least I didn't need a passport to get here."


It is customary for high-ranking officials who leave office to keep their diplomatic passport until it expiries naturally, but Dagan's recent comments have angered politicians such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Last month Dagan sparked outrage in the government by calling a possible military strike in Iran "a dumb idea".


While Israel must not accept nuclear weapons in Iran's hands, he said, "An aerial strike on the reactors is a dumb idea that has no benefit."


He added, "Those who strike in Iran must realize that they may prompt a regional war, where missiles will be fired by Iran and by Hezbollah from Lebanon as well. The Iranian problem must be shaped as an international problem, and efforts to delay Iran's nuclear program should continue."



First published: 21.06.11, 20:48
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