Former Shin Bet chief being courted for ministerial post
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Former Shin Bet chief being courted for ministerial post

As several top ex-defense officials enter politics, Israeli TV says Yesh Atid and Labor are seeking to enlist Yoram Cohen

Yoram Cohen, then-chief of the Shin Bet security agency, attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on November 18, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yoram Cohen, then-chief of the Shin Bet security agency, attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on November 18, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A former head of the Shin Bet security agency is being sought after by opposition parties to serve as a government minister after April’s Knesset elections should they form the next coalition, Israeli television reports said Thursday.

Yoram Cohen confirmed he has been contacted by parties about entering politics, but did not specify which or whether he would join one.

“There are inquiries, but not now,” he told Hadashot TV news.

Cohen, whose tenure as Shin Bet chief ended in May 2016, cannot run in the upcoming elections or serve as a lawmaker due to the three-year “cooling off period” for top-ranking security officials before they can enter politics.

He could, however, be tapped for a ministerial role when he becomes eligible for a political career in May, with parties expected to still be haggling over the formation of a government at that time.

According to Channel 10 news, Cohen is being pursued by the Yesh Atid and Labor parties, neither of which currently has a high-profile defense figure among its ranks.

Ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (right) and ex-Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen (left) in Jerusalem in December 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

If Cohen were to take the plunge, he would be the latest former head of one of Israel’s leading security branches to enter politics this election cycle.

Benny Gantz, a popular ex-chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, last month registered his new Israel Resilience Party, formally marking his entry to politics.

Though Gantz has been mum on his political views, he has emerged as the top challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His party is polling second to the ruling Likud, although with less than half as many seats.

Fellow former IDF chief of staff and onetime defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has also set up a new political party and over the weekend confirmed reports that he is in talks with Gantz on forming an electoral alliance.

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2007. (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2007 (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

In another potential development, the Israel Hayom daily reported Thursday that Gantz’s predecessor as IDF chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, is weighing a political bid and that if he were to enter politics, he would join Likud.

The establishment of new parties by Gantz and Ya’alon came amid a number of political shake-ups and surprise moves since the Knesset voted last week to disband itself and schedule early elections for April 9.

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