Now, the other shoe has dropped. Bibi Netanyahu has surprised everyone by naming as the new Shabak chief, Yoram Cohen (and in English), an Orthodox Jewish candidate for the job who was championed by the ultra-Orthodox, extremist settler community. Bibi had long-planned to nominate Yitzhak Ilan, one of the current chief’s deputy directors, to the job as I reported here based on an Israeli source. But the campaign by the far-right was a powerful factor in the prime minister rejecting Ilan, who would’ve been the first director of Georgian-Jewish background.
The black mark against Ilan was that he’d been the head of the unit investigating Jewish terror. As such, he’d cut a little too close to the bone for the settler terror apologists, who prefer people like Jack Teitel, Chaim Pearlman and Ephraim Khantses roaming free rather than behind bars. The very rabbis behind the campaigns against employing Palestinians in Jewish stores and renting housing to Palestinians were those who torpedoed Ilan’s candidacy. In fact, Ynet goes so far as to say that Bibi turned away from Ilan out of fear of the settlers. So Ilan loses and Cohen wins based on the support of the Orthodox Jewish racist crowd. Does that tell you a bit about where Israeli democracy, already almost mortally wounded, is headed?
Cohen, on the other hand, commanded the Arab terror unit. As such, and along with that kippah on his head, he’s scored points with the ultra-nationalist crowd currently running rampant in Israeli politics. The Nana article linked above notes he is a Tel Aviv native and attended an Orthodox yeshiva. He will be the first Orthodox Jew to head the spy agency. He is 51, a resident of Jerusalem and father of five. Among his studies, he completed an executive management course at the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania).
He has also been a visiting fellow at Aipac’s Washington Institute for Near East Peace where he wrote an essay I critiqued here some time ago. In publishing the piece, WINEP allowed my friend Sol Salbe to identify him, since normally no Israeli security agents below director may be named in the Israeli press. In case you’re wondering at the level of strategic thinking to expect from him, here is how he managed in one and the same paragraph both to admit Israel broke the ceasefire which eventually led to Operation Cast Lead, while blaming Hamas for the violence that followed:
Last week, Israeli forces entered Gaza, destroyed an underground border tunnel, and battled Hamas fighters, leaving several militants dead. In response, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired around eighty rockets into southern Israel…Despite this breach of the tahdiya, or ceasefire, both Hamas and Israeli leaders have stressed their desire to deescalate the situation. But considering Hamas’s history of violence against Israel, the organization’s commitment to the tahdiya is open to serious question.
Among his fields of expertise are Arab-Iranian counter terror, which would place him among those intelligence operatives shreying about Iran’s efforts at Middle East hegemony, and inside Gaza in particular. When you read headlines like yesterday’s in Haaretz in which a columnist cries gevalt over Iran’s alleged takeover of Syria, you’ll see the influence of this Cohen mindset.
Here is some of his trolodytic “wisdom” concerning Hamas’ “real” intentions in Gaza:
Hamas’s primary long-term goal is the liberation of historic Palestine “from the sea to the river” and the foundation of an independent state based on sharia, or Islamic religious law. This would require the destruction of the state of Israel and control over Palestinian institutions, including the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestine Liberation Organization, and all of the Palestinian Diaspora groups. To this end, Hamas seeks a powerful modern army to continue its armed struggle against Israel, a goal that is aided by Israel’s enemies, Iran, Syria, and Hizballah.
It’s safe to say you won’t be getting any new or innovative thinking out of the director-designate. In fact, you can expect two things from him, a continuing erosion in investigation and prosecution of the growing wave of terrorist acts of Judean (aka settler) terrorists. And a ratcheting up of the number and intensity of detention of Israeli Palestinian terrorists and their interrogation. And possibly a return to more intensive forms of State sanctioned violence in the form of targeted killings.
You’ll feel a frisson of foreboding when you read this blessing from the outgoing chief, Yuval Diskin:
Yoav is a field officer. He rose in the field, knows the field and the field knows him. I’m convinced that he understands the objectives standing before us…
Indeed. More Ameer Makhouls, more renditions of victims like Dirar Abusisi. You should expect no less.
And indeed, yesterday brought news that there is a new young Palestinian victim on the altar of Shabak counter-terrorism. He is a 19-year-old boy, Ahmad Khaled Ghanem from Nazareth. His arrest and the reasons for it are under typical Israeli gag order. This allows the interrogators to work him over a bit before the world wakes up and find out what happened. If there are any Israeli human rights NGO staffer who can follow-up with research of their own please contact me. I’d like to know where he’s imprisoned, who is his lawyer, how to contact his family, and any other pertinent information to publicize his plight.
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam