Tens of thousands rallied Saturday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, with the slogan “Israel wants change, ” calling to replace the government and alter national priorities.
The focus of the rally was the speech by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who attacked the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“We have a leader who fought in only one campaign — the campaign for his own political survival, ” Dagan said.
“I am here as a soldier who wants to do everything required and possible for the state that I have dedicated 45 years to defend. I have no other aspirations, ” Dagan told the crowd.
In addition to Dagan’s efforts to stop Netanyau’s reelection, some 200 retired senior military and security officers have launched a campaign to replace Netanyahu, suggesting a real change is required in Israel’s government in order to attain real security.
Central to these military experts’ arguments is their assertion that Israel no longer faces an existential threat.
Dagan recalled how, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, “I thought if they cannot destroy us now they probably never will. I still believe that today. Israel is surrounded by enemies. Enemies do not scare me; I worry about our leadership.”
In a Channel 2 interview Thursday, Dagan called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress “bullshit, ” saying that his policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians endangered the Zionist dream.
Saturday night, Dagan stated: “Israel is a country surrounded by enemies, but the enemies do not scare me. I only fear our own leadership. I fear the lack of vision and loss of direction, I fear the indecision and stagnation, and I fear above all the worst crisis of leadership we’ve had here to date.”
Dagan appeared excited, and wiped tears from his eyes several times during his speech.
“I don’t want a binational state, ” he declared, “I don’t want us to become an apartheid state … Is it not time yet for our disillusionment?”
Addressing the crisis in Israel’s relations with the U.S., Dagan said: “You have to treat the Iranian danger wisely, and harness our allies to the mission, rather than fight them.”
The rally took place ten days ahead of Israel’s elections, constituting the last ditch effort of the left to create a significant change in public opinion. It was organized by the group “Million Hands, ” which, according to its website, is dedicated to the two-state solution. According to rally organizers, “After 6 years of failure, we demand to restore hope, hope for a better life in Israel.”
Dagan’s relationship with Netanyahu began to sour after the former’s re-appointed in 2009 to serve as Mossad chief until the end of 2010. For some reason, in June 2010, Netanyahu had denied a request by Dagan for another year at the helm of Mossad.
After his retirement, Dagan became renowned as a sworn enemy of Netanyahu, attacking his policies, particularly regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. In 2011, Dagan called Netanyahu’s notion of a military strike against Iran a “stupid idea.”
As punishment, Dagan was asked to turn in his diplomatic passport before its expiration date.
In a March 2012 interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, Dagan again called an Israeli attack on Iran “the stupidest idea, ” saying he considered the Iranians to have “a very rational regime.”