An former senior official from the Mossad agency on Monday announced he was joining the centrist Yesh Atid party, as the Israeli political scene gears up for expected national elections within the next 14 months.
Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the spy agency, made the declaration at a press conference alongside Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
According to recent polls, Lapid’s Yesh Atid could overtake the governing Likud for the largest party in the Knesset if elections were held today.
“I feel it’s my duty to use the experience and knowledge I gained in my years in the Mossad — from being a fighter, all the way to heading the Special Operations Division and serving as deputy director of the Mossad — to continue contributing to the state,” Ben-Barak told his new party colleagues at the Yesh Atid faction room in the Knesset, thanking Lapid for the opportunity.
Lapid said he was “pleased” to make the announcement, stressing that Ben-Barak would strengthen the political party’s security team.
“He spent most of his life in the shadows of Israel’s security establishment. He is a well-known and well-respected figure within the establishment. He led countless secret operations. He brings with him a strategic vision and operational experience which is almost unparalleled. He also brings a depth of knowledge on Iran and the forces operating inside Syria,” said Lapid.
Born and raised in Nahalal, Ben-Barak served for five years in the IDF’s famed Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. He then joined the Mossad, where he worked for 27 years, including as the agency’s deputy director between 2009 and 2011. He has since served in several key posts, including as director-general of the Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Ministry.
— Ram Ben Barak (@Ram_Ben_Barak) January 15, 2018
Ben-Barak is a graduate of the National Defense College and has an MA degree in Government and National Security from University of Haifa.
Lapid and Ben-Barak also took the opportunity to slam the current government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, with Lapid saying his party was “presenting an alternative to the government.”
“I decided to use the experience I’ve gathered to help build a better place for us to live,” said Ben-Barak. “When contemplating which political platform to join, I was guided by two principles. Firstly, I wanted to join a national Zionist party which recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Secondly, I wanted to join a party which defends liberal and universal values of equality and freedom, a country that doesn’t discriminate between citizens based on gender, religion or race.”
Ben-Barak called Yesh Atid “a party aligned with my social, diplomatic and security views and which advances those two goals which are the most important to me. It’s time to change leadership and return to the norms on which this country was founded.”
“I’m happy that Yair Lapid and the members of Yesh Atid saw in me a worthy partner, who can help lead the change we all wish for,” he concluded.
Lapid’s centrist party, which currently has 11 Knesset seats, has polled strongly over the past year and a half with most surveys putting it as a challenger to Netanyahu’s Likud party, and the most recent surveys have it overtaking Likud.
The announcement came as Yesh Atid was hit by controversy over an investigative TV report alleged last week that party member MK Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet agency head, leaked sensitive information to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri about police wiretaps of his associates during a corruption investigation into the Shas leader two decades ago.
The “Uvda” segment aired last Wednesday unearthed a report from a covert probe in 1995 that saw two of the three-person panel of investigators conclude that Peri — also a former science minister — was likely the source of the 1991 leaks to Deri, after the then-Shin Bet chief was found to be lying on a series of polygraph tests.
Peri, who conceded to having a “good relationship” with Deri at the time, has firmly denied the allegations. Lapid has indicated he would not seek Peri’s ouster, despite mounting calls for the MK to resign.