Bush sent Dagan a personal letter following a conversation with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. About a month ago, during a visit to the United States, Olmert telephoned Bush and informed him that Dagan was about to complete his term as Israel's Mossad chief.
The cooperation between the Israeli and American intelligence services reached new peaks during Olmert's term as prime minister. At the time, Olmert personally introduced Dagan to Bush and used the Mossad chief as his personal emissary to Washington on security and intelligence issues.
According to different reports, the former prime minister sent the Mossad chief to present to the US president information collected on a Syrian nuclear reactor.
After hearing about Dagan's retirement, Bush decided to write a personal letter as a special gesture to the former Mossad director. Olmert's office received the letter in recent days along with a copy of the former president's new book. On Thursday, during the farewell party, Olmert took the stage and surprised Dagan with the American leader's gift.
In the letter, Bush congratulated Dagan on his "wonderful career" and said it was honor for him to work together with the Mossad chief in advancing security issues and laying the foundation for a peaceful world.
The event was also attended by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and many other ministers.
Dagan personally invited the family members of missing navigator Ron Arad and Israeli spy Eli Cohen, who was executed in Syria in 1965, to the event. In his speech, he expressed his regret over the failure to retrieve new information on Arad's fate, and apologized to the Cohen family for failing to return his body to Israel.
"And (Kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit," he said, "is still being held by terrorists. We must not forget those we have lost along the way." Ron Arad's wife, Tami, approached Dagan at the end of the event and kissed him.
Peres on eagles, sharks and tigersNetanyahu praised Dagan for his hard work. "Some people have a knife between his teeth, but Meir has an RPG between his teeth," he said.
Peres surprised the audience with a particularly amusing speech. "I am well aware of the fact that we are not allowed to reveal secrets about the Israeli Mossad's activity," he said. "But if anyone still wants to learn something about the Mossad's activity and about Meir Dagan, they should turn to the foreign press and particularly to the Arab media.
"The Arab media recently revealed two major 'mishaps', according to foreign reports: The Arab intelligence infiltrated the Mossad and caught two key agents of the organization: An eagle with radar stealth wings and a shark with a silencer as teeth. The new agent is a tiger who turns into a cat once it is stroked. They provided interesting details on the way they were trained by the Israeli Mossad and by Meir Dagan on the road leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
The president went on to address more serious aspects in Dagan's work. "There is no doubt that a meeting of all spy agency directors in the world would choose Dagan as the world's best organization head," he said.
"Israel's intelligence situation is between is better than its political situation. In secret talks you whisper and tell the truth."
Peres and Dagan have a special relationship. Over the years, they held weekly meetings at the President's Residence. On Thursday, Peres invited Dagan and his wife for a special farewell meal.
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