PM names Yoram Cohen as new Shin Bet chief

"I am convinced that he will bring the capabilities, leadership and experience to meet the challenges," says Netanyahu.

March 28, 2011 22:46
2 minute read.
Shin Bet chief to be Yoram Cohen

Yoram Cohen 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Monday night that Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) veteran Yoram Cohen will succeed Yuval Diskin as head of the security organization. Cohen will be the first observant Jew to hold the top post.

“Israel stands before difficult and complicated security challenges,” Netanyahu said at the KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference in Jerusalem.

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“One of the most important tools to deal with them is the Shin Bet.”

On the same day that the appointment of Eli Gavizon as head of the Prisons Service was cancelled – and just weeks after the fiasco surrounding the unsuccessful appointment of Yoav Galant as chief of General Staff – Netanyahu said he has been dealing for the last two months with the “important question” of who will replace Diskin.

The choice, he said, was from among the cream of the crop within the organization.

Cohen, a 30-year veteran of the Shin Bet, has been at the forefront of the agency’s activities over the last number of years, Netanyahu said.

“I am convinced that he will bring the capabilities, leadership, and experience to meet the challenges,” he added.

Cohen made history as the first religiously-observant Jew to be appointed the head of one of Israel’s security apparatuses.

He served as a deputy to current Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin (who will step down in May) from 2006 to 2008, after serving in a variety of posts within the secretive agency – including 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 Washington, DC. In 2010, he returned to the agency and led teams that worked on developing new technology.

In Washington, Cohen authored a number of policy papers which provide a possible insight into his thinking.

In March 2009, for example, Cohen coauthored a paper titled “Hamas Arms Smuggling: Egypt’s Challenge,” in which he called for increased Israeli-Egyptian cooperation to combat the transfer of weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He recommended that Egyptian, Israeli and American intelligence agencies join forces to combat the smuggling.

In another paper, Cohen warned of the growing independence of al-Qaida groups in the Gaza Strip, but questioned their ability to launch “major, complex operations.”

Diskin hailed Cohen’s appointment, saying he was confident that Cohen would successfully lead the agency in face of the many challenges it currently faces.

“The appointment of Yoram, who came from within the Shin Bet ranks, will enable the Shin Bet to meet its objective of providing security for the State of Israel,” Diskin said.

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