What happens when a true Mossad warrior joins politics?

Few Mossadniks have gone into politics, but that isn't stopping Ram Ben Barak.

January 17, 2018 10:54
4 minute read.
Ram Ben-Barak

FORMER MOSSAD deputy chief Ram Ben-Barak says the qualities of a Mossad ‘warrior’ is his or her individual intuition, ability to cope with adversity and play multiple roles. . (photo credit: SHIR SEGAL)


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Ram Ben-Barak is the real deal.

The former Mossad deputy chief until 2011 is not just a standout in being unusually tall, he has a quality that only a seasoned Mossad operations man has.

And now he is taking those abilities into politics. How will that all work out? In past interviews with The Jerusalem Post, he said that “a Mossad warrior’s weapon is his individual intuition, ability to cope with adversity and play multiple roles.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, you have no weapon. No bulletproof vest.

“You need to go all over the world with your intuition. You need to recruit people. Your interpersonal abilities must be very high to get people to work for you.... You need to be very quick with sharp insights in sizing up a situation, and have a strong ability to push and stay committed.

You need to be able to talk about anything,” Ben-Barak said.

Several years in the IDF special forces and decades in the Mossad – all of those skills would seem to be tailor-made for prepping a successful politician.

Yet so few Mossadniks, even legendary, popular ones like Meir Dagan, have gone into politics.

There are exceptions – take former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, who spent some years with the Labor Party. But in truth he was a career IDF man, who spent just two years in the Mossad.

Mossad personnel excel at secrecy, at diving in and out of a role, and at picking their moments to take action after careful surveillance.

Life as a politician is exposed, it is constant and its throws a range of curveballs at you that you cannot control and cannot prepare for.

Time will tell whether he can adjust, though Ben-Barak’s move is not a sudden one as he had hinted about a political horizon to the Post even a year ago.

WHAT DOES he stand for, and will he jell well with Yesh Atid and Yair Lapid? In the past, Ben-Barak told the Post from his life-long home of Moshav Nahalal in the North, “It does not matter so much what we decide, yes or no to two states, yes or no to separation, but we need to decide.... We can’t live indefinitely with... tohu vavohu [chaos]” on the diplomatic front.

He held his cards close to his chest about specific solutions to the country’s diplomatic problems, but he was clear that whatever Israel decides about fateful diplomatic issues with its neighbors, it should pursue that “with all of its energy. Don’t stutter, tell the whole world, including the lawyers and the diplomats.”

Sounds a lot like Lapid, who is most in his element taking apart the current government’s policies, but has avoided getting specific about solutions so as not to alienate any sides of the electorate.

One idea that Ben-Barak did endorse was Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz’s concept of an off-the-coast manmade Gaza port with special security arrangements.

He said that “we need to give Gaza a [political] horizon and some hope. Maybe we will do a unilateral move.”

A major issue that Ben-Barak reportedly and undoubtedly dealt with at the helm of the Mossad alongside then-agency chief Dagan was preventing Iran and Syria from advancing their nuclear weapons programs.

Though Ben-Barak refuses to discuss operations he was involved in, it is public record that during the same time he was in high positions in operations, the US and Israel joined forces to unleash the Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran to sabotage its nuclear machinery, Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated in a variety of mysterious and creative ways, and Syria’s clandestine nuclear reactor was destroyed.

He also pushed back in a personally offended-sounding way at CIA and NSA criticisms that the use of cyber against Iran was overaggressive and unduly revealed the cyber code.

“For 15 years Iran has tried to get nuclear weapons, and until now it has none. It has none not because it did not want one, but because of many reasons which stopped it from succeeding..., and we need to make sure it never gets one,” he said.

After that strong statement on Iran, he is more likely to be a proponent of special operations to slow any sprint to a nuclear bomb than a major aerial strike, at least until it is clear Iran will have a bomb.

On issues of religion and state, Ben-Barak is a clear liberal. While complimenting US President Donald Trump’s support for Israel, he went out of his way to say he was “disturbed how he has spoken about minorities and women. Pluralism and protecting democratic values are the most important.”

Ben-Barak is a big supporter of women in the Mossad, and he may look to make part of his mark as a strong supporter of women’s rights.

It would be expected that Ben- Barak will face an adjustment period and make some novice errors in his early days in politics.

But he was also director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry until 2016. Furthermore, this is a man who was once captured in 1991 in Cyprus, and somehow still reentered covert operations and rose to be the Mossad’s No.

2. So, learning curve and all, he is someone to keep an eye on.

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