The Turkel Committee, which approves senior civil service appointments, on Sunday issued its anticipated approval for the appointment of Yossi Cohen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s candidate for the next head of the Mossad.
Netanyahu named Cohen, his current national security adviser, on Monday as his pick to replace Tamir Pardo as head of the intelligence service. Cohen, 54, has the “wealth of experience and achievements” necessary for the job, the prime minister said last week.
Netanyahu made the announcement of the appointment in a televised appearance at the Prime Minister’s Office, ending weeks of speculation and rumors over possible candidates to head the famed spy agency.
Considered close to Netanyahu, Cohen had served as the deputy head of the Mossad from 2011-2013, when he was appointed head of the National Security Council. Pardo will step down from the position in January.
Cohen was considered the front-runner of three former and current deputy heads competing for the job. Ram Ben-Barak, director general of the Intelligence Ministry, and the serving Mossad deputy head — identified only as “N.” — were the other two challengers.
Speaking last week, Netanyahu said the Mossad needed to excel in three fields — operational ability, intelligence and diplomacy — and that he took all three imperatives into account when deciding on the new chief. Expertise in the last of these three fields, diplomacy, was particularly important when it came to fostering ties with countries that do not have formal relations with Israel, said the prime minister, apparently referring to Arab states.
Citing the French terror attacks and other threats, he said the new Mossad head needed to be wise and professional.
“Yossi Cohen has a vast wealth of experience and achievements and has proven his ability in various fields within the organization. He has leadership skills and professional understanding, which are the characteristics required of those who would lead the organization,” Netanyahu said. He stressed that the other two candidates were worthy of the job as well, and said he was sure they would continue to serve the State of Israel.
Cohen himself expressed his delight Monday evening at the appointment.
“I want to thank the prime minister for the faith that he has placed in me. I am excited by the scale of the role and its importance,” he said, according to the Ynet news website. The new spy chief vowed to do his utmost to provide “quality intelligence” for Israel.