Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, was in the midst of an upheaval, after Netanyahu’s candidate for the position of agency chief was revealed to be Ido Nehushtan, Israel’s 16th air force chief.
Nehushtan is in line to replace the agency’s current chief, Tamir Pardo who is set to finish his term in January.
A source with intimate knowledge of the race for Mossad chief told that Nehushtan’s name had been dropped in the hat for chief nearly a month ago by an official close to Netanyahu.
The official claimed that Nehushtan was “very likely to” beat out the three candidates from within the agency: Rami Ben-Barak, Yossi Cohen, and the current deputy Mossad chief, N’.
Netanyahu finished the second round of interviews with the three candidates only last week.
The interviews were reportedly both long and highly detailed, during which each candidate described their world view, and their plan for the future of the Mossad.
If Nehushtan is in fact appointed to the position, the move is likely to spur a wave of retirements and protests within the organization, as the move is likely to be seen as a vote of no confidence in the intelligence agency – which is directly subordinate to Netanyahu.
“If its true – than it is both disrespectful and scandalous. A real slap to our faces,” a senior official with close ties to the agency said. “With all due respect to Nehushtan, and his proven managerial skills, and his successful term as air force chief, he is not familiar with at least 99% of the Mossad’s activities.”
The senior official added that, “It’s difficult to understand why the prime minister would disqualify candidates who he himself perceived to be apt for the position, and who both rose up in the agency’s ranks, and commanded operations and campaigns for decades.”
“They know the ins and outs, why would he prefer an external candidate with no knowledge of the type of covert operations we conduct, over them,” the official concluded.
Nehushtan (58) was appointed commander in chief of the air force during Ehud Olmert’s term as prime minister, and commanded the force during Operation Cast Lead. He continued to hold the position during Netanyahu’s second term as PM, and retired in 2012.
Nehushtan’s candidacy comes as a surprise, as in contrast to the police, the Mossad has not been embroiled in scandal, and has not undergone a serious upheaval which would require an external candidate. There has been talk of external candidates here and there, mainly former IDF generals, but the prevailing line was that the next Mossad chief would emerge from within the agency’s ranks.
The Internal candidates
The three main candidates to replace Pardo rose within the Mossad. Rami (Ram) Ben- Barak served in the IDF’s legendary Sayeret Matkal unit, and later served in the Mossad’s Keshet Division, which is responsible for tracking, entering facilities, and information gathering.
Ben-Barak is thought to be Pardo’s protégée. In 2010, then-head Meir Dagan took him on as his deputy, and this year he was appointed the director-general of the Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Ministry by then-minister Yuval Steinitz.
The second candidate is Yossi Cohen, who served as a unit head in the new and groundbreaking Tzomet Division of Mossad, and won the Israel Security Prize for an operation he led.
Cohen later became head of Tzomet and deputy head of Mossad. In August of 2013 he was appointed by Netanyahu to the position of national security advisor, and has since become a close confidant to the prime minister.
N., the current deputy Mossad chief, also rose through the ranks in the Keshet Division, served as the head of Mossad’s Technology Division, and is seen as responsible for the organization’s increased technological advances.
It should be stated that out of the 11 heads of the Mossad to serve until now, six of them emerged from within the intelligence community, while five came from the military.