Former Mossad Head Meir Dagan Passes Away at Age 71

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90
Former Mossad head Meir Dagan. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Obituaries were pouring in Thursday for former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who passed away early Thursday at age 71. Besides serving as Mossad head, Dagan served in other top security positions in Israel’s defense establishment, among them head of operations at the IDF Central Command and director of anti-terror operations in the IDF.

In an official statement, the Mossad said that “organization head Yossi Cohen and the staff of the Mossad expresses deep regret over his passing, and extends its consolation to the family.”

Born in Ukraine in 1945, Dagan came to Israel at age five with his family, beginning his army service in 1963. During the Six Day War, he commanded a platoon that fought in the Sinai Desert, and in 1970, under the direction of Chief of Staff Ariel Sharon, established the Rimon special forces squad, which dealt with choking the then-nascent terror movement set off by the Palestine Liberation Organization. The group is credited with preventing large numbers of terror attacks during the 1970s. He also served in various command capacities during the Yom Kippur War and Operation Peace for Galilee.

He left the IDF in 1995, eventually working with Ariel Sharon to get him elected as prime minister, who appointed him to head Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians. In 2002, he was named Mossad head, and his term was extended twice, both by Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu. Dagan is said to have presided over the elimination of numerous top Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists, and causing extensive damage to the terrorist infrastructure of both groups.

In 2012, Dagan was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy, but the treatments could not stem the advance of the disease. Under Israel’s health care system, he did not qualify for a liver transplant at age 67, as such transplants are only done for individuals up to age 65. After attempting to find a donor – and being refused by authorities in the U.S. and Western Europe – he finally found a donor in Belarus, and underwent the operation in 2012. Despite that, the cancer continued to spread.

Commenting on his passing, President Reuven Rivlin said that Dagan was “one of the great fighters of Israel, very creative and deeply faithful to the importance of the survival of the Jewish people. His dedication to the State of Israel was complete.”

Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog said that Dagan was “a true hero who fought with bravery against our enemies, seeking peace with the same level of dedication. The State of Israel owes him a tremendous debt.”

Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Liberman said that Dagan’s “great contribution to the security of Israel will never be forgotten. He was a brave fighter, and only in the years to come will the importance of the work he did become clear.”