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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Ilan Mizrachi, the former deputy head of the Mossad, will replace Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland as head of the National Security Council in three weeks.
Mizrachi told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night that he was excited to take over the post but did not believe that his appointment indicated that the Mossad would begin to play a more central role in the diplomatic and security decision-making process than it already has.
He said that Yoram Turbowitz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Chief of Staff, approached him two weeks ago and offered him the position. Ofer Dekel, the former deputy head of the Shin Bet, was also rumored to have been a candidate for the post.
"I want to make a difference and that is why I took the job," Mizrachi told The Post. He said that the NSC would serve as the prime minister's main coordinator with the Israeli security and defense branches.
Eiland, who held the job for the past several years, announced his retirement several months ago after Olmert took over as prime minister. Mizrachi will oversee a number of changes to the NSC, including the declared intention to turn the council into an administration that would be charged with overseeing the amalgamation of security-related information flowing through the Prime Minister's Office. The NSC will also move from its current headquarters in Ramat Hasharon to the PMO in Jerusalem.
Mizrachi, 59, has held a number of senior positions in the Mossad spanning over a 32-year career. He is considered an expert on Iran. In 2003, Mizrachi was a candidate to take over from Efraim Halevy as head of the Mossad but lost out in the race to the current director Meir Dagan. He has since worked in business and philanthropic ventures.
Prof. Uzi Arad, who was replaced as the head of the Mossad Intelligence Branch by Mizrachi, said the new head of the NSC was a "well-experienced intelligence officer who brings a strong and diverse background to the post." Arad, who established the NSC when he served as former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's foreign policy advisor, said it was important for Mizrachi to receive clear guidelines regarding the issues he would be authorized to deal with and would be placed in charge of.
Over the years, NSC chiefs have repeatedly been sidelined by the prime minister when it came to dealing with diplomatic issues, said Arad who was the founding head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Eiland, he said, was not former prime minister Ariel Sharon's "right-hand man" when it came to diplomatic issues and was instead passed up by other functionaries like Dov Weisglass who was placed in charge of relations with the United States.
Plans to move the NSC to Jerusalem, he said, would hopefully give Mizrachi the opportunity to serve as the PM's main advisor on security-related issues. The NSC, Arad said, was established by Netanyahu to serve as something of a consultancy group for the cabinet.
"The NSC's job is to collect and integrate the information needed by the ministers before they make their decisions," he explained. "Once the cabinet makes its decision the NSC will also need to make sure the various government and security branches implement the decisions."