Incoming Mossad director Yossi Cohen.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
One day after his predecessor, Tamir Pardo, said that the possibility of peace is disappearing, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen said Israel may currently have a one-time chance to bring regional peace.
In perhaps his longest public speech since taking over the organization in March 2016, he said the Mossad does not just defend Israel’s security, but also takes big initiatives in the diplomatic arena.
Cohen took credit for moving Oman toward having an Israeli diplomat officially working with it following extensive clandestine meetings with the Mossad.
He also said that many moderate Sunni Arab countries – besides Jordan and Egypt, who have peace deals with Israel – now have wide-ranging quiet relations with Israel both in combating Iran and other areas of common interest. Due to Israel’s unusually positive relations with both the US and Russia and these other converging trends, Cohen conveyed an optimistic view of the future between Israel and its neighbors.
Discussing the security challenges Israel faces from Iran and others, Cohen announced that the two women and four men who led the operation to steal secret Iranian nuclear archive material in January 2018 will receive an award tomorrow at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence.
He said that in James Bond movies, one person saves the world, but that “in the real world, many Mossad operatives,” including technology experts, engineers for opening Iran’s safes, cyber agents and operations staff all worked together “to expose the lies of Iran’s leaders” and “prove that Iran tried to get a nuclear weapon.” The mission to retrieve the archive material “showed the impossible was possible, and the unbelievable doable.”
The Mossad chief said that the Iran operation “changed the way the world viewed Iran” and the nuclear standoff. Cohen also hinted that there is more to reveal from the nuclear files that were taken from Iran.
Cohen said Iranian claims that enriching uranium is just for medical research or energy are “flat-out lies,” stating that the Iran nuclear deal was a bad deal. “Only clear determination to stop it from getting a nuclear weapon can stop it,” he said.
He illustrated his point by noting that Iran is “obsessive” about developing ballistic missiles and that the nuclear deal has an end date which permits Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
The intelligence head also confirmed, from his own sources, that Iran was behind the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf, strikes on Saudi Arabian airports and US facilities in Iraq.
Iran has also supported terrorism in the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey and France, according to Cohen. It even attempted a terror attack in France when former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was visiting. The Islamic Republic also trained 300 fighters in Syria and Iraq to pursue its interests in central Africa.
Next, Cohen highlighted Iran’s support of the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, noting the Islamic Republic has given them $100 million in the last year. “It is the main regional terrorism sponsor,” he said.
He added that Iran was attempting to get advanced precision missiles into Syria for Hezbollah to strike Israel. However, the Mossad is combating all of these efforts, he said.
Foreign media has credited the Mossad for a variety of assassinations of top Hamas scientists and engineers working on advanced weapons development for the Gaza group.
More broadly speaking, he said Hamas must soon face a choice between quiet and a chance for its society to prosper or worsening conflict in which Israel will have to unleash greater force against it.
The intelligence organization also stops attempts to harm Jews all over the world and has thwarted attacks on airlines around the world.
On a related note, Cohen said that the Mossad helped return the remains of IDF soldier Zechariah Baumel to Israel and is working on returning the remains of Eli Cohen and other Israelis whose bodies are being held outside the country.
Regarding diversity, Cohen expressed hope that soon the chief of the Mossad would be a woman. Moreover, he cited statistics that 40% of the Mossad is female and 26% of the organization’s commanders are female, noting that he has encouraged female recruitment at a whole new level.
This was not the only area where Cohen said he has tried to diversify the Mossad.
He said he has successfully recruited ultra-Orthodox agents in notable numbers for the first time and is also recruiting persons with physical disabilities as analysts, since they can be brilliant additions to the spy agency even if they cannot serve in operational roles.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>