Netanyahu to appoint deputy Mossad head as next Mossad Director

Prime Minister has put forward the Mossad’s deputy chief – known as “D” – to replace Yossi Cohen as the next director of the spy agency next June 2021, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Tuesday.The appointment must still be approved by the Civil Service Advisory Committee, led by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, but generally the prime minister has almost complete discretion on the Mossad.The agency falls under the purview of the prime minister’s office so no cabinet or Knesset approvals are needed and D’s full identity will be revealed only after he takes up his post. He has served as deputy chief for two years and was picked ahead of “A,” a former deputy chief.Besides serving in an elite IDF reconnaissance unit, he has served in a wide variety of Mossad divisions, but especially as head of the Tsomet division that recruits spies and as deputy head of the Keshet electronic eavesdropping section.The appointment of D was praised to The Jerusalem Post by both former Mossad chief, Danny Yatom, and former Mossad deputy chief, Ram Ben Barak.Both Yatom and Ben Barak are vehement critics of Netanyahu, so their support signaled that “D” is broadly respected within the intelligence community.The impression is that “D” is likely to be an aggressive risk-taking leader who will take a similar approach to Cohen’s and in contrast to Cohen’s predecessor, Tamir Pardo, who emphasized continued intelligence gathering but took fewer audacious operational risks and tried to keep the agency more behind the scenes.

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Also, he was involved in the normalization deals with moderate Sunni Arab states that the Cohen has helped push forward.Until the recent talk of elections, the announcement of a new Mossad director was expected to be put on hold until later in the spring. Sometimes the next chief is picked as little as a month before the incumbent is set to leave.For example, Cohen’s appointment was only announced in December 2015 and he took over in January 2016.Likewise, Netanyahu often agonizes over such appointments until the last moment and also uses them to garner loyalty from those seeking an appointment but it appears that Netanyahu wanted to announce the new head before elections are called.This avoids either the scenario where critics try to block any future appointment during election season, or the scenario where he loses the premiership before Cohen is due to step down in June following a five year term plus a six month extension.Blue and White party leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz was notably not included in Netanyahu’s announcement despite their coalition deal that he can veto any senior appointments.Gantz issued his own statement following Netanyahu’s saying: “The Mossad has many significant and crucial challenges for keeping the State of Israel and its citizens safe. We will wait for the approval of the Goldberg Committee and wish “D” the best of luck in his role.”Behind the scenes, however, it was clear that Gantz had been cut out of the process, was fuming and had conveyed his displeasure to Netanyahu. The prime minister has been known to sidestep Gantz on a range of decisions.Gantz’s spokeswoman has told the Post in the past that he would make sure to weigh when such appointments were being discussed.There were some reports that the early announcement of “D” might lead to Cohen stepping down before June, given that his original five year term expires next month, but the PMO confirmed that for now, he is expected to serve until June.If Cohen were to step down before June, it could be related to his likely plans to enter politics after waiting a three-year cooling off period which would start after he leaves his post.There have been rumors that Netanyahu may seek to appoint Cohen as the next ambassador to the US, although this could be a dicey proposition given that Gilad Erdan would expect to have the job for a few more years but is also possible that Cohen is not so excited about dealing with the incoming Biden administration, having been involved with the anti-Iran Trump White House for the last four years.
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