“The agency will have to adapt quickly to the new strategic reality that is changing in the region,” Yoram Cohen said on Sunday as he took up his post as the director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Making history as the first religiously observant man to hold the top domestic security position, Cohen was selected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to succeed outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, who wrapped up six years in the post and 33 years of service in the agency.

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“He [Diskin] has done a lot for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I am unable to say everything, but I can say that Yuval is a fighter. He started out in the [IDF’s] Shaked Reconnaissance Unit, was a deputy company commander and came [to the security agency] with this spirit, that of a field commander, that of a man trained in carrying out missions. He infused this spirit into the Shin Bet and I must say that the results speak for themselves.”

Netanyahu praised Diskin’s tenure under which the Shin Bet – together with the IDF – succeeded in bringing Palestinian terrorism to very low levels after the bloody times of the second intifada.

Cohen was Diskin’s deputy from 2006 to 2008 after serving in a variety of posts within the agency, including as head of the department charged with preventing Arab and Iranian espionage in Israel. Cohen beat out Diskin’s current deputy “Y.” who was rumored to have been the leading candidate for the post. He will likely resign.

In 2009, Cohen took a leave of absence and spent a year as a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In 2010, he returned to the agency and headed up teams that worked on developing new technology.

In his speech, Cohen warned that the ongoing upheaval throughout the Middle East could evolve into new threats for Israel.

“This potential for escalation joins and influences other existing threats that we still have to deal with on the Palestinian front,” Cohen said.

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