Bibi Netanyahu’s national security advisor, IDF general and avowed settlerist, Yaakov Amirdror is resigning his position next month. He had a falling out with Netanyahu’s minister for strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz. The latter saw Amidror and the NSC as subordinate to him. However, Israeli law determines that the NSC advisor is appointed by, and reports to the prime minister. As an extremely close confidant of Netanyahu, it appears the prime minister sided with Steinitz one time too many. There were also reports about unspecified disagreements between Amidror and the prime minister over strategic matters.
I reported here when a hitherto unknown Yossi Cohen was appointed as deputy Mossad chief under Tamir Pardo. That was when Israelis only knew him as “Y.” because their media is foolishly forbidden from reporting the full names of security officials (except directors). Cohen, age 52, came to his current Mossad job from Tsomet, the division that runs Mossad agents around the world, where he was the unit head.
Cohen will be taking over from Amidror as NSC director. Yossi Melman reported that Cohen sees his promotion to national security advisor as providing him a leg up in the running for Mossad chief in 2 1/2 years time when Tamir Pardo ends his tenure.
The new NSC director has four children. Cohen was raised Orthodox as a child and comes from a well-to-do family. He abandoned his religion as an adult.
As Melman reports, Cohen is known for his charisma and charm. He’s beloved by the Mossad operatives who serve under him. My Israeli source, who’s met him one or two times said it’s not surprising to him that he could both turn an Arab agent AND bed his share of women (more on that below).
In Haaretz, Barak Ravid calls the appointment of Cohen “perplexing,” declaring that while he is a gifted spy, he has no obvious skills that would qualify him in his new role. In fact, Ravid believes that Bibi is “grooming” Cohen eventually to assue Pardo’s job. It was the prime minister who imposed Cohen on Pardo as the price of offering the top job to the latter. So Bibi is using the NSC job as a sort of finishing school, allowing his chosen boy to learn on the job as he prepares to take on the top Mossad job.
This seems typical of Bibi’s style: not naming someone to a job because of qualification, but because he’s a personal favorite. Is this any way to run a country? You bet it isn’t.
In his report on this story, Melman alludes to the fact that Cohen trained in the same class of agents with Victor Ostrovsky. The latter was rejected on the last day of his Mossad training. His revenge was to write a juicy tell-all book that revealed many heretofore unknown aspects of secret training.
Though clearly Ostrovsky was a deeply disaffected figure and his candid account of life in the world of the Mossad must be treated cautiously, this passage dealing specifically with Cohen is important to read. If it’s true, then it reveals that Cohen has many of the sexual predatory instincts of Israel’s generals, political leaders, and security officers.
In the Israeli security community, most of the sex scandals have involved Shin Bet officials and their female subordinates. But Ostrovsky’s account (pgs. 111-112 in By Way of Deception—the passage below has quite odd transliterations of Hebrew names and words) show even Mossad men “always get their man,” and their women (over and over again):
Yosy had suggested our group go to his house to grab some sleep because we had to stay together. Then Yosy said there was a woman down the street he’d promised to visit. So he didn’t get any sleep at all.
I said to him, “You’re quite newly married. You’re just about to have a baby. Why did you get married? You never rest. You’re like a fish in water. At least part of you is always swimming.”
He explained that his in-laws had a store in Kiker Hamdina Square (now similar to New York’s posh Fifth Avenue), so money was no problem. Also, he was Orthodox, so his parents expected a grandchild. “Does that answer your question?” Yosy asked.
“In part,” I replied. “Don’t you love your wife?”
“At least twice a week,” he said. Many people, when they know you work for the Mossad, are impressed. It shows you have a lot of power. These guys were doing their thing by using their Mossad connection to impress women. That was dangerous. That was breaking all the rules. But that was their game. They were always boasting about their conquests.
…To me, Yosy’s most shocking conquest occurred in the fourteenth floor “silent room,” at headquarters in Tel Aviv, the room used to call agents. The phone system had a bypass setup whereby a katsa could call his agent in, say, Lebanon, but for anyone tracing the call, it would appear to have originated in London, Paris, or some other European capital.
When the room was in use, a red light was turned on — rather appropriately for this occasion — and no one could enter. Yosy brought a secretary to the room, a serious breach of the rules, and seduced her while he was actually speaking with his agent in Lebanon. To prove he’d done it, he told Heim [another training agent] he would leave the woman’s panties under a monitor in the room. Later, Heim went in, and sure enough, found the panties. He took them to the woman and said, “Are these yours?”
Embarrassed, she said no, but Heim tossed them onto her desk and left, saying, “Don’t get cold.”
Everyone in the building knew about it. By being straight, I missed out on a lot of contacts. There was a bond developed between men who screwed around. What disappointed me was that I’d thought I was entering Israel’s Olympus, but actually found myself in Sodom and Gomorrah. It carried through the entire work.
Virtually everyone was tied to everyone else through sex. It was a whole system of favors. I owe you. You owe me. You help me. I’ll help you. That was how katsas advanced, by screwing their way to the top.
Most of the secretaries in the building were very pretty. That’s how they were selected. But it got to the point where they were hand-me-downs; it went with the job. Nobody screwed his own secretary, though. That wasn’t good for work.
As I’ve written many times here, this sort of serial sexual predation is considered by powerful Israeli men as a perk of power. That Cohen sits at the top of the security services doesn’t place any constraints on him. On the contrary, it gives him an even greater sense of entitlement.
Of course, the behavior Osrovsky described happened two decades or so ago. It’s possible Cohen has cleaned up his act. One would hope so. But whether he has or not, his sexual conquests and exploits are yet another indication of the rottenness at the core of agencies like the Mossad. They run (still) as if they were brothels maintained for the relief of male sexual needs, something like James Bond’s MI6 in the Ian Fleming novels of the 1950s and 60s.
But while Bondworld is meant at least in part as a comic satire, the sexual liaisons of agents like Yossi Cohen are deadly serious and reflect a deadening at the heart of the male Israeli id.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.