Attorney general ends probe into former Mossad chief’s TV interview

State finds the allegedly secretive information Yossi Cohen discussed was approved by the military censor; officials are still looking into other allegations

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen (R), in an interview with Channel 12's Ilana Dayan, broadcast on June 6, 2021. (Channel 12)
Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen (R), in an interview with Channel 12's Ilana Dayan, broadcast on June 6, 2021. (Channel 12)

The attorney general announced Sunday that he would end a probe into Yossi Cohen, after the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency allegedly revealed secretive information in a television interview.

Cohen, who retired as head of the Mossad in June, provided highly specific details of recent intelligence activity against Iran in an “Uvda” (Fact) documentary show on Israel’s Channel 12 news.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that it found that Israel’s military censor had reviewed Cohen’s remarks in advance and allowed them to be aired.

State Prosecutor Amit Aisman and chief of investigations at the Israel Police, Yigal Ben-Shalom, said there was no reason to continue the investigation, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit backed their position.

However, the State Prosecutor’s Office is still looking into claims that Cohen accepted an illicit gift worth $20,000, among other allegations.

Mandelblit had instructed Aisman to conduct a thorough investigation of the apparent serious allegations against Cohen that reached his office and the state prosecution, the Kan public broadcaster and the Maariv news site reported earlier this month.

Then-Haifa district prosecutor Amit Aisman, during a conference at Haifa University, November 23, 2017. (Screenshot: YouTube)

One of the suspected crimes, first reported by the Haaretz daily, involves Cohen allegedly receiving a gift worth $20,000 from billionaire Australian businessman James Packer for his daughter’s wedding.

In the same TV interview in June, Cohen spoke for the first time about the incident. He claimed to have accepted the funds after consulting the Mossad’s legal adviser, and said he is committed to returning the gift.

Cohen, 59, was recruited by the Mossad at age 22 when he was studying in London, and rose through its ranks to become its director after a short stint as National Security Council chief.

Cohen, nicknamed “the model” inside the agency, had an unusually public persona for an Israeli spy chief, even as he oversaw operations against Iran’s nuclear program and helped guide Israel’s clandestine ties with Arab nations.

He stepped down as head of the Mossad on June 1, after more than five years on the job, and was replaced by David Barnea.

Cohen, who was appointed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he does not rule out seeking to become prime minister one day, though he is not yet contemplating such an ambition. Cohen also denied any unlawful political relationship between himself and Netanyahu, when he was serving as the Mossad chief and Netanyahu was prime minister.

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