Meir Dagan, who stepped down as Mossad chief four years ago, said Netanyahu’s Iran policies are “destructive to the future and security of Israel.”
That censure was among other similarly sharp critiques of the prime minister’s leadership Dagan offered in an interview with Israel’s most-popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.
Dagan, who has been vocally critical of Netanyahu’s Iran policy since leaving Mossad, will be a keynote speaker at a rally in Tel Aviv next weekend, when he will call on the public to vote the prime minister out of office on March 17.
Netanyahu is due to fly to Washington next week to address a joint-session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner. The prime minister is expected to lobby for sanctions against Iran, which President Barack Obama firmly opposes.
The visit has brought the already rocky relationship between Obama and Netanyahu to an all-time low, and drawn criticism from Democrats in Congress and many in Israel.
Netanyahu has said he believes that his speech is necessary to strengthen opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran being negotiated by the US and key allies, the Guardian reported.
A recent Times of Israel poll found that 72% do not believe Obama will limit Iran's nuclear capabilities. Still, many Israelis also fear that Netanyahu's visit will lead to an irreparable rift with its strongest supporter.
The White House has said the president will not meet with the prime minister during the visit, citing longstanding protocol about visiting with foreign officials so close to an election.
Meanwhile, Israel is already “paying a high price” over the confrontation with the Obama administration, Dagan told Yedioth Ahronoth.
“The person causing the most strategic harm to Israel on the Iranian issue is the prime minister,” he said. “As someone who has served Israel in various security capacities for 45 years, including during the country’s most difficult hours, I feel that we are now at a critical point regarding our existence and our security.”
At a time when Israel’s standing in the world is “not brilliant,” Dagan said, the country should not erode relations with its strongest ally by interfering with US domestic politics.
“I would not have confronted the United States and its president,” he said. “Netanyahu may get applause in Congress, but all the power is in the White House. What will Netanyahu gain by addressing Congress? I just don’t understand it. Is his goal to get a standing ovation? This trip to Washington is doomed to failure.”
In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice also called Netanyahu’s visit "destructive."
House Speaker Boehner, who invited Netanyahu without notifying the White House, said he “couldn't disagree more" with Rice.
"But what is destructive, in my view is making a bad deal that paves the way for a nuclear Iran," he continued. "That's destructive, and that's why it's so important for the American people to hear what Prime Minister Netanyahu has to say about the grave threats that we're facing."