Ron Ben-Yishai

Who will replace Dagan?

War for replacement of Mossad Chief Meir Dagan is already underway

Make no mistake about it. Mossad Chief Meir Dagan did not ask to extend his tenure in the past year, and therefore such request was not rejected. However, his upcoming retirement from Mossad is prompting an inheritance war replete with venomous leaks. Dagan’s colleagues and rivals within Mossad are already eying the top job, yet his replacement may end up arriving from the IDF or Shin Bet.


On June 21of last year, the government decided (on PM Netanyahu’s recommendation) to extend Dagan’s term by another year. According to several credible sources, Dagan did not ask for his term to be extended again during this past year and did not indirectly hint that this is what he wanted. Among other reasons, he didn’t do so because several ministers, headed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Minister of Intelligence Affairs Dan Meridor, explicitly said at the time of the last extension that a new chief is needed in order to bring new blood to the organization.


The prime minister and Dagan did not reject the above demand, and to participants at the session it was clear that the two accepted this stipulation, even though the government decision did not explicitly rule that Dagan would not be able to serve as Mossad chief for a ninth year.


Is Diskin the top candidate?

Despite the calls in the media to dismiss Dagan in the wake of the Dubai entanglement attributed to Mossad, and following the arrest of an Israeli national in Poland, Netanyahu decided that the Mossad chief will complete his term as planned, in September or October at the latest. Some experts and politicians believe that the reported details (assuming they are accurate) regarding the Mabhouh assassination in Dubai and the German passport obtained fraudulently attest to operational mishaps by the operatives, rather than a series of failures as result of negligence or exaggerated self-confidence among Mossad’s top brass or the operation’s masterminds.


The prime minister and defense minister want to choose a new Mossad chief without time pressure and out of a broad range of suitable candidates. One of them, a man who enjoys great support around the prime minister, is Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin. While he will formally end his term in May 2011, the PM will have no trouble bringing the date forward should it be decided that Diskin is the suitable candidate to take over Mossad.


Yuval Diskin is considered a top-notch expert on secret intelligence and counter-intelligence work, and is intimately familiar with Mossad. Before being appointed as Shin Bet chief, he was “loaned” to Mossad, led a certain project, and won Dagan’s trust. However, Mossad officials say these skills are insufficient under the current circumstances, as Diskin does not possess enough experience when it comes to international activity.


Moreover, in September-October of this year, it will be clear who the defense minister intends to recommend as IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenaiz’s replacement. There is a possibility that the top Mossad job will then be offered to one of the generals competing for the army chief position who will not get the appointment.


Mossad officials want insider

The candidates are Major Generals Yoav Galant, Gadi Eisenkot, and Benny Gantz. However, Mossad officials prefer an inside candidate. According to past and present Mossad officials, an outside candidate would be required to undergo a period of training to acquire the missing expertise, while the Iranian issue and the threats on Israel’s northern front require the new Mossad chief to operate fully and intensively immediately upon entering office.


The most prominent candidates within Mossad include R., who currently serves as Dagan’s stand-in, and T., who used to be one of Dagan’s two deputies and retired last year after Dagan’s term was extended. Back then, he was considered a natural candidate to succeed Dagan and was disappointed after the coveted job remained out of reach for another year.


T. feared that during the past year, some developments may push him further away from his objective (as indeed happened.) Hence, he demanded that Dagan endorse his candidacy at the end of his term. Dagan refused and T. retired in protest. Nonetheless, some Mossad and government officials view him as a suitable candidate today.


Among past and present Mossad chiefs, there are two or three more candidates considered suitable by their colleagues, and in their own eyes, to replace Dagan. It’s clear to all candidates that Dagan’s recommendation would have great influence on the prime minister’s decision. Hence, those not considered as preferable choices by Dagan, as well as the many enemies he accumulated during his long years at the post, are interested in settling the score with him and blurring the prestige he gained.


As result, we can say that an “inheritance war” is underway within Mossad, and those involved are willing to use any means, including leaks to the media. Indeed, the longer it takes the prime minister to make a decision, the more public expressions of this inheritance war we shall see.


פרסום ראשון: 06.27.10, 20:57
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