Panel approves Nadav Argaman as new Shin Bet chief

Panel approves Nadav Argaman as new Shin Bet chief

Vetting committee paves way for mastermind behind assassination of top Palestinian bombmaker to take over security agency from Yoram Cohen

Incoming Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman (Shin Bet)
Incoming Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman (Shin Bet)

Israel on Monday appointed an officer said to have masterminded the assassination of a top Palestinian bombmaker as head of its Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a committee on senior civil service appointments endorsed his nomination of current Shin Bet deputy head Nadav Argaman to the top post.

Argaman, Netanyahu said in a statement last month, “has a proven track record of commanding and operative experience at the Shin Bet. I am certain that under his command the Shin Bet will continue to grow stronger on the operative and technological fronts, and will continue to protect the security of Israel.”

Argaman, 55, is married and a father of three. Unlike the head of the Mossad intelligence agency Yossi Cohen and the Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, who both come from a religious background, Argaman is secular.

File: Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet security service, attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, November 18, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet security service. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The incoming Shin Bet chief was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1978, serving in an elite unit. In 1983, he joined the Shin Bet, where he served in a variety of operative roles. From 2003 to 2007, Argaman was the Shin Bet’s representative in the US; he was made deputy head of the agency upon his return to Israel, and served in that role for three years.

Argaman has a BA in political science from Haifa University, and a Master’s degree in security and strategy from the National Security College at the Haifa University.

He will succeed incumbent chief Yoram Cohen, whose term ends in May, as director of the service — which is Israel’s equivalent of the US FBI or Britain’s MI5.

Israeli news site Ynet said that Argaman “was responsible for the assassination of one of the top Gaza targets, ‘the Engineer’ Yahya Ayyash, and as the deputy director, he led the operation to assassinate Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari.”

Hamas bomb expert Ayyash, previously known as Israel’s “public enemy No.1,” was killed in 1996 at his Gaza hideout by a mobile telephone rigged with explosives by Israeli agents.

Jabari, deputy head of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, died in 2012 when an Israeli missile blew his car apart on a Gaza street.

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