Jerusalem Terror Attack 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Monday that Yoram Cohen
would serve as the next head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) brings an
end to the sweeping personnel changes at the top of Israel’s various defense,
security and intelligence agencies.
In the past four months, the heads of
the Mossad, IDF, Military Intelligence, Israel Police, Prisons Service and now
the Shin Bet have all either been replaced or had the identity of their
While Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
claim that it was coincidental, it could also be part of a failure to conduct
long-term strategic planning and foresee that changing everyone could be
potentially dangerous – particularly with the threats Israel currently
Cohen knows the Shin Bet well. He has served in the agency for
over 30 years, and climbed from the bottom up, like Yuval Diskin, the current
But despite his years of experience, Cohen will face some major
The Shin Bet’s primary focus is the Palestinian arena, but it
also works to combat general Arab and Iranian espionage, as well as Jewish
terrorism. All three are becoming more and more relevant.
With regard to
the Palestinians, there is some concern within the defense establishment that
the IDF and the Shin Bet have lost some of their previous advantages due to the
dramatic drop in military activity in the West Bank – and the reliance on the PA
security forces to operate in its place.
Without having boots on the
ground inside almost every West Bank city anymore, it is argued that the IDF and
the Shin Bet have difficulty gathering information like they were able to during
the second intifada, when arrest raids took place on a daily basis.
interesting that the IDF and the Shin Bet are still hunting for those
responsible for the murder of Udi and Ruth Fogel and their three children earlier this month in their home in Itamar. In the past, the Shin Bet and IDF were known for being able to capture terrorists in a matter of days.
There could be a couple of reasons: Either it was the act of a lone
attacker, which makes the case more difficult to crack; or it was
carried out by a larger terror infrastructure, which the Shin Bet is
still working on bringing down. Either way, Israelis have gotten used to
speedy justice. That is clearly not always the case.
But Palestinian terrorism will not be the only issue topping Cohen’s
agenda. The growing number of so-called “price tag” attacks carried out
by settlers and right-wing activists have the potential to spark a
larger conflict with the Palestinians and lead to a new escalation in
violence in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet usually treads carefully when operating within settlements
and working to uncover Jewish terror plans. But there have been cases in
recent years – like Jack Teitel, the American- Israeli who allegedly
murdered at least two Palestinians and was behind a string of bombings
and attacks – that demonstrate the potential danger.