Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Tuesday announced the appointment of Major General (res.) Meir Dagan as head of the Mossad to replace outgoing chief Ephraim Halevy.
According to Haaretz, Dagan's appointment still requires the approval of a special public committee.
Meir Dagan has enjoyed a close relationship with Sharon for 30 years. In the early 1970s, when Sharon headed the Israeli Army Southern Command, he assigned Dagan to lead a special unit in the Gaza Strip. In February 2001, Dagan coordinated Sharon's election day staff.
Among his military assignments, Dagan commanded Israeli troops in southern Lebanon, Haaretz reported.
During the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s, Dagan served as a special assistant to the Israeli Army chief of staff. In 1993, he was promoted to major general and went to the general staff as deputy operations chief. He left the army in 1995 and joined the Shin Bet security services a year later as deputy director.
Sharon and Dagan share not only a long military career together, but also hard-line views regarding Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors.
On November 26, 2001 Sharon appointed the hawkish reserve general to head the Israeli team that would work with US envoys Anthony Zinni and William Burns.
Following this decision, Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid accused Sharon of appointing a team of extremists to the talks, to ensure their failure. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said: "Sharon is not interested in a political solution to the problem and the appointment of Dagan reflects his intentions."
Israel's Labor Party member Haim Ramon said: "On the day you agreed to Dagan's appointment, the slightest chance of bringing about a ceasefire was buried." Shimon Peres's close aide, the director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry Avi Gil, said he would not take a position in the team, in protest of Dagan's appointment.
On Israel's assassination policy that has claimed the lives of scores of Palestinians, many of them were bystanders, Dagan told The Jerusalem Post that from Israel's standpoint the aim is to thwart attacks on its citizens any way it can. "It is one of the tools a state takes to prevent attacks and to boost deterrence," Dagan said.
Regarding proposals to give Yasser Arafat's PA control over the Temple Mount (Haram As-Sharif)Dagan said: "I don't see any logic in giving the Temple Mount (to Arafat) and cutting a border on the most delicate point, when Israel is able to provide freedom of worship to anyone and maintain overall security responsibility all over Jerusalem." (Albawaba.com)
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