Tired but smiling, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan spoke with Channel 2 News on Tuesday a few days following his release from Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. Just two and a half months after undergoing urgent liver transplant surgery in Belarus, Dagan has been recuperating in his Tel Aviv home surrounded by family and friends.
Since his operation in mid-October, Dagan's life has hung in the balance during the tenuous period after transplant surgery. Israel's gaze was fixed on Belorussia after the news of his emergency operation came out publicly.
During the interview, Dagan's face showed signs of the difficult road to recovery, but when asked how he is feeling now, he responded optimistically: "I hope this is all behind me."
Alongside Dagan was Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, who was among those who accompanied Dagan throughout his ordeal both abroad and in Israel. Dagan didn't hesitate before saying, "When I see the rabbi, or my doctor, I feel fine." Dagan is currently helping Firer raise funds for a new rehabilitation center.
The close relationship between the former Mossad chief and the rabbi is evident in their pictures together. "The rabbi is a man who helps everybody, from those who hold the loftiest positions to ordinary people," said Dagan. "If you want to see for yourself, go to his office and you'll see who's there in the waiting room. Rabbi Firer is Rabbi Firer – an institution. I am extremely fond of the rabbi; he was very interested in what was going on with me and also helped here and there with some good advice. That's enough, isn't it?"
Dagan, 67, was forced to undergo the risky surgery in Belarus because he didn't meet the criteria for such a procedure in Israel, which requires the patient to be 65 or younger.
News of the procedure was revealed in October by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who announced that Israel's former spy chief underwent successful liver transplant surgery. Lukashenko added that the U.S. and Switzerland had refused to host Dagan for the surgery, claims Dagan's associates later denied.
In an interview with a Russian news outlet following his operation, Dagan's wife, Bina, mentioned that Yisrael Beytenu Chairman and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman helped facilitate the operation. Two weeks after the surgery, Dagan was flown back to Israel for continued recovery and rehabilitation.
During his military service, the Ukrainian-born son of Holocaust survivors served in the Paratrooper Brigade and reached the rank of major-general. Dagan retired from the Israel Defense Forces in 1995 and went to work alongside former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The two knew each other from their army days, when Dagan served in the "Shaked" reconnaissance unit Sharon lead, tasked with assassinating terrorists in the Gaza Strip. In 2002 Dagan was appointed to head Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, a position he held until Jan. 2011.
After he left the Mossad, Dagan made headlines on a number of occasions for publicly voicing his opposition to an Israeli military strike against Iran. In Feb. 2011, Dagan was appointed director of the Israel Port Authority.