Neti/Cohen
© Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen in December 2016. Kobi Gideon/GPO
Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen in December 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival, but it is clear also to him that at some point, there will be a post-Netanyahu era. He has already broken Ben-Gurion's record of 13 years at premiership, but he doesn't want a shift to happen too fast. When he recently called for snap Likud primaries in order to secure his standing, he panicked when his rival Gideon Sa'ar tweeted "I'm ready". Netanyahu went chickenshit, reversed the decision within an hour and said it wasn't primaries, only a confirmation of his leadership.

Netanyahu wants heirs that are loyal to him, and that he has suggested, at the time he finds suitable.

Enter Yossi Cohen, chief of the Israeli Mossad: "If there is someone whom we eliminate without hesitation, it's Hamas people abroad," said Cohen in an interview this week for the ultra-orthodox newspaper Family (Mishpacha in Hebrew), where he boasted of the spy and assassination agency's achievements under his leadership since 2016.

Cohen is one of the two people directly suggested by Prime Minister Netanyahu as his successors in the future - the other being Ron Dermer, who is now Ambassador to US.

Cohen is playing it smooth: "People tell me that I can step into Netanyahu's shoes. I certainly see myself in the Israeli leadership also in the future. But I have not yet decided."

Cohen is likely to continue his job for a couple of years, to end up with a five-year term like his predecessor Tamir Pardo, and then he would have to be on a three-year "cooling-down" period before entering politics. Benny Gantz went into politics right after his period was over, after he was army Chief of Staff.

So, even if you have "not yet decided", it's always a good idea to promote your image. And what better way to do that, than to boast of having "killed many Arabs", as Naftali Bennett puts it. Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's supposedly liberal rival, knew that too, when he boasted of his own extrajudicial assassination operation and of returning Gaza to the "stone age", when he entered politics earlier this year.

These murderous credentials really give points in Israel. It helps if you have that legacy. Cohen also has that family legacy, with a father who was a Jewish terrorist in the Irgun. So what can be more fitting, than to speak about those Zionist family values, in the Family newspaper. Cohen also has the religious background, he went to Yeshiva, he's got it all. He's even got the looks, and is regarded as "the model", as is noted by the laudatory recent Jerusalem Post coverage on him.

Cohen brags about how being a Mossad assassination target is a matter of "prestige", as he said about the alleged attempt to kill Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, General Qassem Soleimani:
"With all due respect to his bluster, he hasn't necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad's assassination targets... He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible."
But when it's Hamas people, they are apparently prestigious almost no matter what they do. Cohen says that the Hamas assassination targets range "from local agents to those who manage acquisitions of weapons pointed towards Israel". But these are not acts of vengeance, he said, merely a "removal of threats".

Yet when Hamas merely capture - not kill - an Israeli soldier, it's terror, and that's a mainstream view. That's how Benny Gantz addressed it in his video about extrajudicial assassinations:
Ahmed Jabari, Hamas arch-terrorist, responsible for the kidnapping of [Israeli soldier] GIlad Shalit, feels safe... IDF Chief of Staff Gantz thinks otherwise... (video features explosion killing Jabari) Only the strong wins. Gantz. Israel before anything.
Capturing an enemy occupation soldier is not kidnapping. Gilad Shalit was a prisoner of war. This can't even qualify as terror. Of course when Israel doesn't capture, but simply decimates whole families in Gaza, that's not terror, it's just war... So who's the "arch-terrorist" - Jabari, or Gantz?

But most Israelis don't even think about these things. They just know that Hamas are the bad guys, and they love the fact that people like Yossi Cohen are after them, and that they kill them "without hesitation". So this recent interview with Cohen will no doubt give him points, also in comparison to Dermer. Dermer was born in USA and only emigrated to Israel at age 25, without any military record. Yossi Cohen's family background goes several generations back in Palestine (oh, Eretz Israel!), with a rabbinical connection to Al-Khalil (oh, Hebron!), he celebrates his birthday according to the Hebrew calendar, he was a Paratrooper, and he's killed many Arabs. He dresses nicely and he's so humble about leading the country, one day. What a hero.
About the Author:
Jonathan Ofir: Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.