Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed a new head of the Mossad foreign intelligence service. The previous deputy “D.” will take over as leader from current head Yossi Cohen. Cohen took office in early 2016 and is reportedly leaving in the summer of 2021.
Cohen’s Tenure as Mossad Chief
Netanyahu first appointed Cohen as Israel’s National Security Advisor in 2013, a role in which Cohen demonstrated his diplomatic skills. Cohen, whom former colleagues described as “sensitive, personable and highly charismatic,” from then on also served as his premier’s special envoy in, particularly precarious situations. At a time when the crisis with Israel’s most important ally on the question of the Iranian nuclear program was escalating, and anger over Netanyahu in Washington was growing steadily, Cohen became an essential mediator who continued to enjoy prestige and found open ears on both sides of the Atlantic.
Who is Cohen’s Successor?
The full name of Cohen’s successor, “D.” has not yet been released for security reasons. According to Netanyahu’s office, however, Cohen’s successor is a long-time Mossad agent and is also believed to have served in an elite Israeli Defense Forces reconnaissance unit.
The new director allegedly also served in a wide variety of Mossad divisions, including as head of the Tsomet division that recruits spies and also as deputy head of Israel’s Keshet electronic surveillance division. Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, and former Mossad deputy chief, Ram Ben Barak both reportedly welcomed the appointment of “D.”
Brief Backgrounder on Mossad
The official name of the Mossad is Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations. Special operations are indeed attributed to the intelligence service, which has also led to some criticism of its approach and a reputation for being ruthlessly effective. Particularly in matters regarding Iran, the Mossad has often been accused of assassinations, espionage, and sabotage acts aimed at Tehran’s nuclear program in particular.
Due to its structure as a civil intelligence service, the Mossad is comparable in its function to the US Central Intelligence Agency – an agency the Mossad has reportedly held substantial connections with. The Mossad is widely considered one of the best-informed intelligence services in the world.
Spectacular cases such as the German Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann’s kidnapping from Argentina to Israel in May 1960 have also been linked to the Mossad.
What Will D’s Responsibilities Be as Mossad Director?
Netanyahu made clear what’s expected of a Mossad director in a speech on Cohen’s appointment in 2016: “The Mossad will continue to act against threats, with operations that are best kept silent,” said the prime minister. Furthermore, the secret service “will have to adapt its task of collecting information to modern technologies”. However, Netanyahu defined a third area of responsibility for Cohen: the Mossad will henceforth “help to establish diplomatic relations all over the world, including with Arab and Muslim countries.”
Due to the Middle East’s current developments, it can be assumed that this task area will also be assigned to “D.”
Until the recent talk of elections – and the pending government crisis in Israel – the announcement of a new Mossad director, was expected to be put on hold until later in the spring. More often than not, the next director is chosen as little as a month before the incumbent is set to leave.
“D.” must now be approved by the Civil Service Advisory Committee, led by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, the government statement said. However, this is generally seen as merely a formality. If approved, the Mossad changeover would take place in June 2021.