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MIDEAST MIRROR 12.06.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Looking back

 

Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth have the same lead story in their Friday edition: a report that the attorney general has ordered a criminal investigation into a former state attorney, as part of an ongoing and seemingly endless investigation into allegations of corruption among senior lawyers.

Haaretz leads with an investigative report into the kidnapping and murder exactly a year ago of three yeshiva students in the West Bank, which – according to some interpretations – was one of the reasons that Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza, just a couple of weeks later. The article highlights the mistakes that were made by police officers investigating the boys' disappearance, but also looks at the role of the IDF and Shin Bet.

The report claims that the Shin Bet failed to detect the kidnapping plot in advance and missed the involvement of a third man in the scheme, even though all three perpetrators were well-known Hamas operatives. As for the IDF, Haaretz says, it only began searching for the boys four hours after one of their fathers informed it that his son was missing.

The Jerusalem Post also leads with a story that is related to the events of last summer – an IDF investigation which has decided that no criminal charges will be filed against soldiers involved in one of the most documented incidents of the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas – the killing of four boys on an open Gaza beach area. A preliminary IDF probe confirmed the children were killed by an Israeli strike on a compound next to the Gaza harbor and that according to information gathered by the IDF, the compound was being used by Hamas naval fighters as a base of operations.

According to the investigation's findings, the compound had been under IDF surveillance for several days prior to the strike, due to intelligence relating to a meeting of Hamas militants that was to take place in it. On the day of the IDF strike, an Israeli military aircraft identified several running figures entering the compound – whom IDF forces took to be Hamas militants. 'At no stage of the event were the figures identified as children,' the prosecution's statement read. 'The decision to carry out a strike against the figures identified in the compound was made after all necessary pre-strike authorizations were received, and a survey was carried out to make sure no citizens were in the area.'

In other news, all the papers report on the rocket attack on southern Israel on Thursday night – the second such incident this week. The same Salafist group which claimed last Saturday night's rocket attack – the Omar Hadid Brigades – also claimed last night's attack. The group said the rocket was in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and their own members incarcerated in Hamas-controlled jails in Gaza. 'The Jews will never enjoy security and safety as long as we are alive,' the group said in a statement.

Finally, Walla! News reports that a senior Israeli official held several meetings in Western countries between 2012 and 2014 with members of the secular Syrian opposition, despite Israel's official stance of neutrality regarding the internecine civil war. The meetings, which are the most senior-ranking ones to have taken place between the sides, did not reach any concrete agreement on cooperation between Israel and the rebel forces, but both sides reportedly attributed importance to the very fact of their being held.

As for the identity of the Israeli source, the news site reports he or she is a high-ranking diplomatic source in a significant public position, who continues to serve in that post – but it did not reveal the name of the source. The meetings took place with the aid of a non-governmental source that is in contact with several secular opposition groups in Syria. As opposed to being a string of continuous meetings, they were rather a set of talks at different points in time, with the conversation focusing on the shared enemies between the opposition groups and Israel.

A source familiar with the meetings told Walla! that 'the important thing in these meetings was the dialogue, and the fact that the dialogue received approval in the form of the participation of a senior Israeli official. In the Syrian opposition there are people who want to see us take a side, but for most of them it's clear that from our perspective that's not on the docket,' added the source. 'Israel can help in the humanitarian field, no more than that.'

He noted that despite the official neutral stance, Israel clearly shares common enemies with the secular opposition forces, who confront the hostile Assad who remains in a state of war with Israel on the one hand, as well as the Iran-backed Hizbollah propping him up, and on the other vie with radical Islamic rebel forces such as al-Qa’ida affiliates and now Islamic State (ISIS). A diplomatic source in Israel told the news site 'the problem with the secular forces that oppose Assad is that they are full of good intentions, but they have no true power on the ground.'

 

 

48 YEARS OF MISTAKES: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Igal Sarna says that the occupation is a cancer eating away at Israel's flesh – and that we are now paying the price for 48 years of mistakes.

"Israel really messed things up 48 years ago. Now everyone's unhappy: the right and the settlers have achieved a third of their goal and they are scattered across the territories like disgruntled invaders; their children are uncontrollable; they carry out revenge attacks against innocent Palestinians and they live without personal security. The left sees how its bleak predictions about the occupation are coming true and is being marginalized in an increasingly fascistic country. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are living somewhere between occupied autonomy and a defenseless and landless existence. The situation is bad for everyone. In 1967, Moshe Sneh and Raja Shehadeh made a proposal for two states, living side by side, or for Israel to annex some 6,000 square kilometers of the West Bank and to grant full civil rights to the 1,000,000 or so Palestinians living there. What a pity we didn’t grab one of those proposals with both hands.

If we had acted differently in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, Israel would now be a flourishing binational state, with full relations with every country on earth and with a reasonable level of coexistence. There would be several Arab parties in the Knesset and Arabs would take a full role in running the country. The worst-case scenario is what we are now: a 48-year-old apartheid country on the verge of a massive change – like South Africa was just before F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison. By not making any decision, we got the worst possible outcome: a malignant conflict that permeated deep into both sides and corrupted them both, alongside an effective international boycott telling us: Change or perish. Either way, with the settlers intertwined so tightly within the Palestinian population, the only option available to Israel is a binational state – either one that we establish voluntarily or one that we are forced to accept. The two-state solution has been murdered by the right.

A boycott, therefore, could serve as a painful but necessary course of chemotherapy. It is exhausting, it has terrible side effects – but modern medicine has yet to find a more effective way to deal with a body that it attacking itself and its surroundings. We are still waiting for the medical breakthrough that will allow the body to defend itself from cancer using its own immune system. For 48 years, we successfully fended off any mediation attempts by the international community – from American secretaries of state, European prime ministers and secretaries-general of the United Nations – to save this land from the cancer of controlling another people and plundering their land – two disasters that are wrapped up in each other in the cancer of occupation.

The establishment of this extreme and extremely narrow right-wing government could be a blessing. It represents faithfully and without shame the occupation and the violence. It is being opposed by an economic boycott, which seeks to tell a country with no borders that there are some boundaries it cannot cross. Israel acts like a wild adolescent with no parents to impose some kind of discipline and with no boundaries; it did to others – and to itself – whatever it felt like doing.

A secret Finance Ministry report which warned of the dangers that a boycott could pose – and why are reports that tell the truth to Israelis always classified as top secret? – was spot on. The report quotes academic research which proves that a country's image has a profound effect on its economy. The BDS movement strengthens Israel's negative image as a country engaged in a long-term conflict and a country that ignores human rights – much like South Africa was during the apartheid years. This comparison – which is much more of an accurate reflection of reality than any government hasbara – is undermining the foundations of prosperity that only exist in truly democratic countries. Therefore, a boycott that terrifies a hardline government like the one we currently have could lead to the kind of reevaluation that will, in the end, save us from ourselves."

Ends…

 

HAMAS DETERRED: Writing on the NRG website, Omer Dostry says that fewer rockets have been fired at Israel in the 10 months since Operation Protective Edge than after any of the previous operations in the Gaza Strip – and that none of these have been launched by Hamas – which is a sure sign that deterrence is working.

"The recent trickle of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip – including last night's attack – raise questions about Israel's claim that last summer's operation in the Strip succeeded in deterring Hamas from launching missiles. As soon as Operation Protective Edge came to an end, almost exactly a year ago, there were those who argued that Israel had lost or, at best, had achieved nothing from 50 days of fighting. The next round, they argued, was only a matter of time.

These arguments, in addition to recent developments on Israel's southern front, deserve answers that are based on empirical data and a meaningful analysis of the strategic situation, rather than on gut feelings or instinct.

In the past two weeks, the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade – one of several ISIS-sympathetic Salafist groups in Gaza – has fired rockets at Israel as part of an internal dispute between its members and Hamas. The organization claimed responsibility for last week's rocket attack, saying that it was revenge for the death of one of its members in a shootout with Hamas. In addition, on May 26, Islamic Jihad also fired a rocket at Israel in the aftermath of an internal dispute that erupted when a new commander was appointed to head the organization in the northern Gaza Strip.

In both cases, Hamas was quick to carry out arrest operations and to track down these renegade terror organizations – some of which were coordinated with Islamic Jihad. It did so openly and made sure that Israel was aware of it. Obviously, Hamas is not motivated by any great desire to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire, but because it hates these Salafist groups and because it is afraid of an Israeli response.

Hamas' political situation inside Gaza is currently highly complex: it is trying to maneuver between Israeli deterrence and the erosion of its authority as the ruling party in Gaza – as well as an ever-present concern that ISIS is growing stronger all the time. On the one hand, Hamas is accused by its rival organizations of collaborating with Israel. On the other hand, it is still reeling from the blows it was given during Operation Protective Edge and certainly does not want any further escalation – especially when it is still licking its wounds from the last round of fighting.

Israel's deterrence capability is proven by the figures. According to Shin Bet statistics, in the 10 months that followed the end of Operation Cast Lead, a total of 207 rockets and mortar shells were fired a Israel; in the 10 months since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, 59 rockets and mortar shells were fired. In contrast, since the end of Operation Protective Edge, fewer than 10 projectiles have been fired – and none of them were fired by Hamas itself.

In addition to the Israeli deterrence factor, Hamas' dire economic situation and its tense relations with Egypt also play a key role. Since the rise to power of Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi, Hamas has been unable to use the underground tunnels to bolster its arsenal and finds itself severely limited. This is preventing it from rearming at the rate it would like and from obtaining the kind of weapons it wants; as a result, the organization's confidence in its own abilities has been undermined.

Having said that – and given the growing strength of Salafist organizations in Gaza and the Sinai – relations between Hamas and Egypt have improved somewhat. Israel has no strong objections to this, primarily because it provides Jerusalem with a clearer picture of the renegade organizations operating in Gaza and allows the IDF to deal with them more effectively. Even though Israeli leaders constantly declare that they see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens inside the Gaza Strip, they prefer as little friction as possible with the organization, since they know that any clash between Israel and Hamas could lead to wider escalation.

It seems almost unavoidable that there will be another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas at some stage in the future, but, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, Hamas has no interest in challenging Israel – both because of Israel's deterrence capabilities and because of its own economic and political situation."

Ends…

 

BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY: Writing on NRG, Amir Rapaport says that, while Jerusalem has denied any connection to the Duku virus, it is almost certain that Israel will take whatever measures it deems fit to remain as informed as possible about the nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers.

"The reports claiming that Israel has planted a virus in the computers of the hotels, in which talks on the nuclear deal with Iran were conducted, sound more than logical. Of course, Israel does not respond to the reports in any way, but it is highly likely that it will take any measure necessary to find out what is happening in the talks behind closed doors.

The reason for such an effort could be linked, first and foremost, to the fact that the outcome of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, regarding a permanent agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, will be of historic significance to the region. Israel is currently not receiving regular, full updates on what is happening in the negotiations. It must settle for partial updates by the U.S. and some of the other participants in the discussions.

In any case, the results of the negotiations with Iran have far-reaching implications for all countries in the region, not only Israel. The Persian Gulf states are already in advanced talks with the United States to buy a huge amount of weapons as a counterbalance to the Iranian threat. The Iranians themselves will start an arms race as soon as the sanctions are removed, and Israel will need to significantly increase the amount of weapons it possesses in view of the regional arms race that is emerging.

Israel currently does not have the ability to influence the talks, even though Minister Yuval Steinitz (who remained in charge of the issue also in the new government), states Israel's position regarding the requirements that should be presented to the Iranians, in his talks with representatives of the different countries.

The mystery remains: what is really going on in the 'behind-closed-doors' discussions?

According to the report in The Wall Street Journal, researchers at Kaspersky Lab found that hotels that hosted the nuclear talks were targeted by a sophisticated, state-level factor – the same one that was behind former cyber-attacks on Iran designated 'Stuxnet' and 'Flame'. The virus 'Stuxnet' was planted in Iranian centrifuges site and caused great delay to its uranium enrichment project. The computer worm 'Flame' was a spying tool of the highest order. Their production is attributed to Israel and the United States jointly, and considered a huge success.

According to all reports, the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate operates advanced collection capabilities using cyber-attack tools – therefore the reports of espionage in the hotels in which talks were held sound reliable. The difference is that the target was not Iran this time, but the partner of previous cyber-attacks – the U.S. In addition, the discovery was made by a Russian expert – this reality can occur only in the era of cyber wars.

It can be assumed that the world powers will accept this act with certain understanding, if it was indeed done by Israel, and that all sides will continue to monitor each other, using advanced cyber tools."

Ends…

 

WHEN WILL IT END?: Writing in Israel Hayom, Yaakov Amidror says that, without massive assistance from Iran, the Alawites and their allies in Syria are doomed to be defeated, ousted from power and massacred.

"When the events that were mistakenly called 'The Arab Spring' began in Syria; many of those who follow events in our northern neighbor closely realized that there is no real alternative to the Alawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad. There was no movement stronger and more deeply rooted – as the Muslim Brotherhood is in Egypt – and there was no secular grouping with Western characteristics, as there was in Tunisia. Syria was artificially created by French and British officials, who divided up the region after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. As a result, Syria does not have a tradition of being a country.

Moreover, around one quarter of Syria's population (the 12 percent who are Alawites and a similar number of Christians and Druze) controls the vast Sunni majority. But minority rule (which many people doubt can even be called Muslim) and the cruelty with which it has ruled, have engendered a huge amount of hatred among the Sunni population. They have sworn to extract revenge against the Alawite minority.

The Sunni uprising that erupted in the spring of 2011 was not planned; like most of the major events of the so-called Arab Spring, it was created by chance, following a localized incident. There have been thousands of such incidents during the long years of the Assad regime, yet almost all of them passed without leaving their mark on history. The Sunnis did not prepare themselves for this new situation and certainly did not organize properly. It is little wonder, therefore, that there is no Sunni leadership that has the backing of the majority. It followed that the Sunnis have been unable to unite in a joint military campaign and that their power is split between dozens of small and uncoordinated rebel organizations. In some cases, they are even fighting each other.

Even today, after more than four years of rebellion against the Assad regime, there are all kinds of active organizations, from those who are interested in relations with the West to those who seek closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. There are also, of course, those that are affiliated to al-Qaeda and ISIS. This split in the opposition ranks meant that there would be no early victory, since it was impossible to concentrate enough forces in any one place to obtain a decisive advantage over the Syrian army – notwithstanding the dissent within the ranks of Assad's forces and the many reported cases of desertion. Thus far, the United States has been extremely cautious and has not given the rebels much tangible support – in part because Washington recognized that there was no one organization in Syria that it could count on.

There has been talk of late that the situation is about to change again. The United States, with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States – and in coordination with Turkey – has managed to unify some of the less extremist opposition groups in the Idlib region. There are already signs that change is afoot. On the field of battle, the rebels have recorded successes against Assad's forces, in part because of the coordination between them. Contact with Turkey, if it can be maintained, will be extremely important, since Ankara has played a rather strange game in Syria thus far: it has turned a blind eye to the many ISIS recruits who have crossed into Syria via its territory and it has blocked aid to the Kurds who have been fighting, in northern Syria on the border with Turkey, against ISIS.

The successes of opposition forces led Hizbollah – the Shiite organization in Lebanon that has the backing of Iran and Syria – to increase the number of its fighters deployed in Syria. For Hizbollah, Syria is an important logistical ally and it physically links Lebanon with Iran – but, at the same time, the organization is acting on Iran's behalf. For Tehran, propping up the Assad regime is part of a broader effort to contract a Shiite axis stretching from Tehran, via Baghdad and Damascus, into Lebanon. In order to achieve this, the Iranians are willing to sacrifice as many Hizbollah fighters as necessary – and not just in Syria. Iran is now using Hizbollah to fight ISIS in Iraq and in Yemen, as backup to the Houthis.

It is totally clear that Syria is where Hizbollah is currently focusing its attention, where more than 500 of its men have been killed and where thousands more continue to bear the burden of the fight to save Assad. The Alawite regime is now more dependent than ever on Hizbollah – more even than it is on Iran and Russia, despite the strategic importance of their support for Assad.

So what will happen in the end? No one has a clear answer to that question, but there are some lessons that we can learn from the current situation. We are still not near an end to this crisis. It will take a long time before a stable regime takes control of Syria. However the crisis ends, there will be more bloodshed. Both sides will continue to fight an extremely cruel war – and the world will stand by watching. If the Sunnis win, most of the Alawites will be massacred; the Druze and Christians will also suffer. The Sunni side, if it manages to overthrow Assad, will start to fight amongst itself until a victor emerges to take control of what remains of Syria. The radical elements within these organizations, which are currently fighting Assad, will turn against each other with the same level of cruelty that they fought against the Syrian regime.

It appears that, without massive Iranian involvement, the rebels will be victorious – if only for reasons of demography. The Alawites and their allies in Syria have very limited human resources compared to the Sunnis. For every potential supporter of the Assad regime, there are three who would die to defeat it. To use a phrase borrowed from basketball, the Sunnis have a deeper bench. And in wars of this kind, that can be the difference between defeat and victory."

Ends…

 

INDULGING ISRAEL HASN'T WORKED – MAYBE THE BOYCOTT WILL: Writing in Haaretz, Yossi Sarid asks how long Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will act like Putin, Erdogan and Berlusconi, but asks to be rewarded like Nelson Mandela?

"And it came to pass, when Binyamin Netanyahu held up his hand, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, the boycott prevailed. But Netanyahu’s hands were heavy. So Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid stayed up his hands – the one on the one side, and the other on the other side.

I wouldn’t attribute any importance to the position of the two doppelgangers. In a place where Netanyahu stands, the moral left won’t stand; you will always walk alone in your path, Bibi. At any moment when a different voice is necessary, that’s precisely when they say 'amen' to him – 'There’s no left or right and we must stand together.' But they don’t represent us; you won’t find us in the ranks of the choir. With leaders of the opposition like this, who needs toadies?

Because this is what we expected them to say: You, Bibi, you’re the one who’s bringing disaster down upon us. You were 'strong against Hamas' and you destroyed Iran with your words, and in your eyes we were all collaborators, who are forbidden to enter the congregation or the coalition. There’s absolutely nobody better than you; you’re a cannon whose targeting system is off, and instead of shelling our boycotters, you’re firing on our own forces. And the bombshell you fired – 'No Palestinian state will be established during my tenure' – can’t be put back into its maw. Did Orange CEO Stephane Richard succeed in retracting, in your view?

So go with your own power, and the power of Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban and Dr. Miriam Adelson, but without us. Let’s see you do it on your own. After all, Jewish tycoons from Las Vegas were always known for their enormous influence over college students in California.

'The world' isn’t anti-Jewish or anti-Israel, and there’s no 'de-legitimization campaign against our very existence.' BDS is a negligible organization that doesn’t smell nice and sometimes stinks. True, anti-Semites haven’t disappeared, and like vultures they flock to carrion. But who’s the one who’s feeding them? Who’s the one leaving easy prey in the fields for them?

The opposite is true, Bibi, the exact opposite: No state has ever benefited from such a generous allotment of consideration as Israel has, and the Green Line border has long since won total international recognition. For 48 years they’ve been explaining to us politely that control over another people can’t continue forever, and that the settlements would be an obstacle to us; but it’s as if we didn’t understand what they were telling us. We didn’t give a damn, and they finally broke.

Any other country would have been punished long ago, even a great power like Russia that invades Crimea and Donbass. Only Israel wasn’t; they discriminate in our favor because of the Holocaust. But new generations are arising which knew not Hitler, and therefore we’ve fallen into overdraft in our account with history.

The impression made by 'the only democracy in the Middle East' is also fading, because this is how our democracy, which won hearts only yesterday, looks today: It doesn’t tolerate minorities that go to the polls in droves; it can’t digest a 'subversive opposition'; it harasses human rights organizations and 'left-wing NGOs'; it limits freedom of expression by law; it shuts artists’ mouths; it imprisons refugees without trial and deports them for no fault of their own; it plots to segregate passengers on buses; it hands its army over to the ayatollahs of the hesder yeshivas; and it abandons its commitment to freedom of worship in Jerusalem. Jewish zealots attack Christian pilgrims at the Tomb of David, who himself never knew where he was buried, and demand that they stop the Last Supper in the middle.

Israel – it’s not what you imagined. And the international community is sick to death of its arrogance and presumption, its lies and manipulations. How long will Netanyahu act like Putin, Erdogan and Berlusconi, but ask to be rewarded like Nelson Mandela?

It’s not just that the settlements have sprouted like mushrooms after every acid rain, but now, they’re even asking us to fertilize them – to buy their honey, their wines and their cheeses. What common sense didn’t do, perhaps the boycott will do; boycott, let’s have it.

Adelson and Saban told us in their joint interview about the feast fit for kings that they consumed before embarking on their holy war, and curiosity is consuming us: Which of the items on their table was a product of the greater Land of Israel? Did they order take away from the dairies of Sussia and the vineyards of Yitzhar? What goes down their throats over there as smoothly as oil is stuck in our throats over here like a stolen olive – or as some would say, 'like a piece of shrapnel in the ass'."

Ends…

 

EYE SPY: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Yossi Melman postulates on whom Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will select as the next director of the Mossad – and examines the challenges that person will face.

"The hush-hush whispers in the hallways of the Mossad headquarters in Glilot, a few kilometers north of Tel Aviv, over the last few weeks have danced around the question: Who will replace its director, Tamir Pardo? Curiosity surrounding his would-be replacement intensified when Pardo replaced his incumbent deputy – whom the censor has asked only be identified as N. – by a new appointment, now known as A.

These deputies came from the two most prominent Mossad operational units. N., like Pardo, originated in and later commanded the unit known as Keshet, which directs surveillance and break-ins into 'still objects' – offices and equipment belonging to adversaries, where bugs and cameras are installed and computers infiltrated.

A. comes from perhaps an arguably more critical unit, Caesarea, which is in charge of sending agents on operations in enemy lands. Since a decade ago when the Mossad was restructured, the deputy head has also overseen the Operations Directorate, which houses all of the organization’s operational units.

Pardo is no stranger to hasty in-house shuffling. In his four-and-a-half years in office, he has had four deputies. In this sense, he has continued the atmosphere of restlessness that permeated the tenure of his predecessor, Meir Dagan, who whimsically replaced his deputies like a new pair of socks. Yet during Dagan’s eight-year tenure, he had the same number of deputies, but in twice the time.

Nevertheless, the answer to the question of who will replace Pardo depends on another issue: Will Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu extend Pardo’s term, which is due to expire at the end of 2015? Unlike the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), where the head is legally limited to a five-year term with the option for the cabinet to extend it for another year, there is no Mossad law on the books. The Mossad, Prime Minister’s Office and Justice Ministry have been struggling for the last seven years to draft such a law.

Witness the results: The mythological Isser Harel held the office for 11 years until 1963; his successor, Meir Amit, lasted just five years. Yitzhak Hofi served in the post in the ’70s for eight; as did Dagan, who served from 2002 to 2010.

The media adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office declined to answer The Jerusalem Post’s questions on this matter. But insiders and officials familiar with the Mossad estimate that it is very unlikely Netanyahu will extend Pardo’s term beyond five years in December. This is not to say that Pardo was a bad manager or failed in leading the Mossad in its new challenges and frontiers. While Pardo might lack some of Dagan’s charm and charisma, he has continued in the footsteps of his predecessor.

According to foreign media reports, the Mossad under Pardo was less involved in assassinations; only one Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in 2011, in comparison to five when Dagan was in office. But this does not indicate that Pardo is more hesitant and less daring than Dagan; most likely, those who were in charge of the assassination campaign – which was only one measure in a broader campaign to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons – reached the conclusion that the method was outdated and had exhausted itself as a useful tool. Yet Pardo continued to see Iran as the Mossad’s No. 1 target for gathering information, with Hizbollah as the second.

Although the Mossad basically remained a human organization – recruiting and running agents as sources for information were its bread and butter under Pardo – it expanded its sigint (intelligence derived from electronic and communication messages used by the targets) and cyber capabilities; and it improved relations with its worldwide counterparts, especially the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Indeed, last week CIA director John Brennan visited Israel and met with Pardo and other senior intelligence chiefs, exchanging estimates about Iran’s nuclear program and the future of the P5+1 negotiations – which is reaching a crucial point, as talks are set to conclude at the end of the month.

Another important development in the Mossad in the last five years is the enlargement and upgrade of its research and analysis department, to the degree that it is now almost equal to its big brother – the research department of IDF Military Intelligence, which is still charged with providing the cabinet with a national intelligence estimate.

Yet Pardo will probably be replaced in six months, mainly because he didn’t get well along with Netanyahu. A well-noted incident occurred two years ago when Pardo, in a closed-door meeting with business executives, asserted that the Palestinian issue trumps Tehran as Israel’s biggest national security problem. Saying that directly contradicted his boss, who time and again has beaten the Iranian drum, calling it an existential threat for the Jewish state.

In the corridors of the Mossad and the Prime Minister’s Office as well as in the media, four names are mentioned as potential successors to Pardo. One is an outsider, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, commander of the Israel Air Force, and the other three are from within the Mossad. It’s more probable that the next head of Mossad will come from within the organization’s ranks – and the remaining three candidates served in the Mossad’s operational units.

One such candidate is the above-mentioned N., who until recently was Pardo’s deputy. Another is Ram Ben-Barak, also a product of the Keshet department. As a young operative, he was arrested together with three team members by police officers near a building in a European city under suspicious circumstances. The incident didn’t stain his career, and he reached the top echelon to serve as a deputy to Dagan; he then went on sabbatical and worked for the Brookings Institution in Washington, and most recently was director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

But the leading candidate is Yossi Cohen, who specialized as a case officer in recruiting and running agents from Arab countries, was head of the department charged with these tasks and served as Pardo’s deputy until two years ago. He was then picked up by Netanyahu to be his national security adviser and lead the National Security Council. Cohen, who managed to develop friendly – even warm – relations with Netanyahu’s family, is the favorite for the Mossad top job."

Ends…

 

 

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