National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen officially became Israel’s 12th Mossad chief Wednesday in a changing-of-the-guard ceremony at Mossad headquarters.
On Tuesday, the top leaders, current and former, of the country’s political and defense establishments held a speech-riddled and occasionally touching farewell gathering for retiring agency head Tamir Pardo.
“We can’t talk about all that you have done all these decades — and even more so these past five years when you stood at the head of the longest, most daring arm of the State of Israel — for the country and the Jewish people as a whole,” President Reuven Rivlin told Pardo at the gathering.
Instead, Rivlin turned to Pardo’s wife Omrit. “I have a moral duty before talking about Tamir,” he began. “You shared him with us. The State of Israel competed with you and your family, and the competition was fierce.”
Rivlin praised Pardo, saying, “In the past five years, the security of Israel was placed in your hands more than once…. You brought the Mossad to the technological forefront, but always ensured it remained a human intelligence organization.”
Among the attendees were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Zionist Union MK (and former Mossad agent) Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, former IDF chiefs Dan Halutz and Gabi Ashkenazi, former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, and many others.
Pardo used his own speech to praise the Mossad’s agents and staff. “You who serve in the Mossad are a concentration of strength, excellence, courage, daring, determination, boundless creativity, wisdom and integrity,” he said.
The agency’s in-house choir sang the classic ballad, “Darkeinu” (“Our path”) with its iconic refrain, “Our path is not easy,” as well as the classic critical-patriotic song, “Ein Li Eretz Aheret” (“I have no other country”), which begins: “I have no other country, even if my land burns….I won’t let her be, I’ll remind her…until she opens her eyes.”
Comedian Asi Cohen sent a video, played at the gathering, in which he depicted his iconic comic character Shauli attempting to join the Mossad under the faux pseudonym “Saul.”
Pardo’s replacement, Cohen, has served as Netanyahu’s national security adviser since 2013, and before that as the Mossad’s deputy chief.
“We met two decades ago, and have been cooperating ever since,” Cohen said to Pardo Tuesday. “I had the privilege to be your deputy, during which time I spent long days and nights drawing inspiration from you and learning from you what it means to be a deep analyst.”
Netanyahu also spoke at the event, joking to Pardo that “You asked for an interesting term, and you got it. Fate decreed that you would serve [as Mossad chief] during the Arab Spring.”