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Netanyahu taps deputy Mossad head as spy agency’s next chief; doesn’t tell Gantz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he has selected the deputy head of the Mossad to be the next chief of the spy agency.

The official, who was identified only by the Hebrew initial “Dalet,” was described in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office as having a “stellar record and a lot of experience.”

The statement added that his nomination had been submitted to the Goldberg Commission, which vets candidates for senior posts.

“The Mossad has great and significant challenges in safeguarding the security of the State of Israel. We will wait for the approval of the Goldberg Commission and wish Dalet success in his position,” a separate statement from Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

Hebrew-language media reported that Netanyahu hadn’t informed Gantz about his choice ahead of time, amid deep distrust between the two leaders. Gantz was said to have called Netanyahu and expressed his fury.

Formally, the prime minister isn’t obligated to inform the defense minister of that decision ahead of time, but that is the accepted practice.

If approved, Dalet will take over for Yossi Cohen, a close confidant of Netanyahu who served as the premier’s national security adviser before he became Mossad chief in January 2016.

His term as Mossad leader was set to end in January, but in July Netanyahu said he would extend it until June 2021.

Cohen has served as Netanyahu’s chief envoy for the government’s most sensitive diplomatic assignments and took a leading role in the recent normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Last month, he was reported to have accompanied Netanyahu on a trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the first such visit by an Israeli leader.

Cohen has been identified as a prime contender to replace Netanyahu as head of Likud, where he is a popular figure, and some unconfirmed reports have suggested he is Netanyahu’s favorite to succeed him.

The spymaster is famed in the Mossad ranks as an operations man. Under his watch, the Mossad has reportedly grown in personnel and budgets and has focused on espionage operations targeting the Iranian nuclear program.

Source: TOI