Ex-spy Chief Said 'Fun Part' About Mossad Is That It's a Crime Organization. Netanyahu Is Not Amused

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said it's 'a crime organization with a license.' Netanyahu responds: 'Mossad is a glorious organization'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah speaks in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 3, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a report published last week that accused him of asking the former head of the Shin Bet security service to listen to the telephone conversations of then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and then-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.

"The Mossad is not a criminal organization. It is a splendid organization that does holy work in the fight against terrorism and other threats to the State of Israel, and we all salute it," Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. The prime minister was responding to Pardo, who described the Mossad as "a crime organization with a license" and said "that's the fun part" of working there. Pardo was speaking in an interview with Uvda, the investigative TV show that aired the report Thursday. 

According to Uvda, Netanyahu asked Yoram Cohen, who headed the Shin Bet from 2011 to 2015, to listen to the conversations of senior officials, including Gantz and Pardo early in Cohen’s tenure. Netanyahu and Cohen have denied the allegation. "I never asked [Cohen] to listen in on the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff or the head of the Mossad,” Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew early Friday. The Prime Minister’s Office has also denied the report, saying that “Netanyahu never asked to listen in on the chief of staff and the head of the Mossad. This is an utter lie.”

Cohen said he did not usually comment on the relationship between the Shin Bet chief and the prime minister, but said the media reports that Netanyahu instructed him to listen to Gantz’s and Pardo’s phone conversations specifically were incorrect.

The head of the opposition in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), said that if the allegations are confirmed “they are of the utmost severity and should concern us all. I call for an urgent and immediate examination by the state comptroller to get to the bottom of this.”