A government panel that vets senior public service officials has approved the nomination of the deputy head of the Mossad as the next chief of the spy agency.
The Goldberg Commission “found no deficiencies” in the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the official, who was identified only by the Hebrew initial “Dalet,” despite the premier’s failure to update Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the nomination.
“Dalet” was described in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office as having a “stellar record and a lot of experience.”
His identity is expected to soon be revealed following the commission’s approval of his candidacy.
“Dalet” will take over for Yossi Cohen, a close confidant of Netanyahu who served as the premier’s national security adviser before he became Mossad chief in January 2016.
His term as Mossad leader was set to end in January, but in July Netanyahu said he would extend it until June 2021.
Cohen has served as Netanyahu’s chief envoy for the government’s most sensitive diplomatic assignments and took a leading role in the recent normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Last month, he was reported to have accompanied Netanyahu on a trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the first such visit by an Israeli leader.
Cohen has been identified as a prime contender to replace Netanyahu as head of Likud, where he is a popular figure, and some unconfirmed reports have suggested he is Netanyahu’s favorite to succeed him.
The spymaster is famed in the Mossad ranks as an operations man. Under his watch, the Mossad has reportedly grown in personnel and budgets and has focused on espionage operations targeting the Iranian nuclear program.
Netanyahu nominated Dalet for the position earlier this month.
Hebrew-language media reported that Netanyahu hadn’t informed Gantz about his choice ahead of time, amid deep distrust between the two leaders, which this week resulted in the dissolution of the Knesset and the calling of the fourth national election in two years.
At the time, Gantz was said to have called Netanyahu and expressed his fury.
Formally, the prime minister isn’t obligated to inform the defense minister of that decision ahead of time, but that is the accepted practice.