Leslie Stahl’s “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan (transcript) gave important exposure to his views on the folly of attacking Iran. However, she got two things very wrong, both of which weakened the strength of his case against a military strike. The bottom line is, she let you think Dagan is a lone voice. In fact, it’s Bibi Netanyahu who’s nearly alone on this. The trouble is, Bibi’s the one who gets to make the decision. That’s why Dagan and nearly every other military or intelligence chief is speaking out against him: They’re scared of him.
Stahl suggested as though it were credible that Dagan was pushed out of the Mossad, supposedly because of the messy assassination of Hamas arms procurer Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010 — and hence that his campaign against the Netanyahu-Barak war talk is a petty act of revenge. In fact, Dagan was supposed to retire in late 2009 at the mandatory age of 65, but Netanyahu asked him to stay on for another year and he ended up retiring on schedule in January 2011.
More seriously misleading is her assertion early on that it’s “unheard of for someone who held such a high-classified position to speak out publicly.” That makes it sound like he’s a lone voice in the wilderness. In fact, as I’ve written before, Dagan’s views have been publicly echoed by every single ex-Mossad or Israel Defense Forces chief going back to 1996, with the single exception of super-hawk (and Netanyahu ally) Moshe Yaalon. Now, that is unheard of.
Even more astonishing, the current heads of the IDF and Mossad, Benny Gantz and Tamir Pardo, have now gone public resisting Netanyahu’s war push. Even Dagan didn’t dare to do that. That’s beyond unheard-of.
Here’s the roll-call:
Eric Cantor on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, grilled by Leslie Stahl on why most Jews are Democrats, unthinkingly digs himself into a hole and then tries pathetically to get out of it. He starts by saying it’s been “the bane of my existence for a long time,” being a serious, devoted member of a community that’s basically Democratic.
But what is it that makes most Jews Democrats, Stahl asks again. Now Cantor steps in it: It’s because Judaism places a high priority on concern for the less fortunate, which leads them to…um, never mind.
“It’s Tikun Olam. That is a concept in Judaism which means repair the world – and it’s a very charitable concept. And it’s that way in the Christian faith and others as well, that you give back. And clearly there is the ability to characterize all the social programs that exist at the federal level as reflecting that need to repair the world and to help those who can’t help themselves.”
Whoops, says Cantor’s facial expression, did I just say that? Can I leave yet? Stahl, meanwhile, is pouncing. “I know,” she says, “but you’ve taken a lot of criticism from American Jews for being a Republican. I mean, you go out and look at what’s said about you…”
Cantor comes back with a quick recitation of America’s fine charitable tradition and the right of middle class people to keep what they earn, but he’s toast. Watch:
Here is the full “60 Minutes” segment.