Mossad Chief Reveals Secrets to Elite Business Confab — Without Netanyahu's Knowledge

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Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.Credit: Moti Milrod

When Mossad chief Tamir Pardo walked into an apartment in Ramat Hasharon, he joined some of Israel’s most powerful and influential businessmen, who were already there for a parlor meeting. The group included Tnuva Chairman Ravit Bar-Niv, Yorcom CEO Motti Elmalich, stock exchange chairman Aharon Noybach, Avraham Koznitzky, head of the Minrav Real Estate Group, Israel Railways CEO Boaz Tzafrir, Uzi Danino, head of Excellence investment group, and twenty other Israeli businessmen.

Everyone in the room was a member of the “forum for Israeli business leaders,” a group comprising dozens of CEOs and company chairmen from large Israeli enterprises. Each member pays some 5,000 shekels per year to maintain their membership in the group.

It’s unclear if Pardo knew when he was being invited to a meeting of the group that it is not a group of volunteers but rather an incorporated company for all intents and purposes. According to an investigative report by economic paper Kalkalist, the company's profits in 2010 stood at 400,000 shekels (currently worth $117,000). Moreover, it is unclear why Pardo decided to make one of his rare appearances before such a group that reeks of ties between business and politics.

The owner of the apartment hosting the event is Noga Keinan, founder of the forum and one of the most well connected women in the country. Keinan also heads a company called the Forum of Financial Directors. According to a Kalkalist investigation Keinan has held all the shares in the business leaders' forum since January 2011, drawing a salary of 80,000 shekels per month.

Since the forum's establishment in 2006, its members have met at Keinan's home every few weeks with Knesset members, ministers, senior bureaucrats, army officers and police officers. Businessmen who are members of the forum get direct access to the same senior officials in a closed intimate forum whose meetings to do not garner for the most part publication.

Besides being connected to the business world, Keinan is connected to many politicians. One of those politicians who assisted by Keinana was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kalkalist found that Keinan was on a think tank Netanyahu established in 2009 to handle the economic crisis. In November 2009 Netanyahu appointed Keinan to be one of three members of a search committee for the next civil service commissioner.

Back to Pardon's meeting: He opened by saying it was his first time participating in such an event. He was aware that what he said could be leaked, so he asked all those present to leave their cellular phones at the apartment entrance. It seems what mostly bothered him was the possibility that his words would be recorded and find their way to the television stations.

Haaretz revealed Sunday some of what Pardo said in the meeting on topics like the conflict with the Palestinians, Iran's nuclear programand the situation in Iraq. However, a large part of the lecture dealt with internal management issues of the Mossad and special roles. In front of 30 business people Pardo revealed details that also touched on the extent of operations of the secret organization which he heads.

"From month to month we carry out a four-digit amount of operational actions," the head of the Mossad told the business people, according to one of the attendees.

Afterward he talked about organizational changes the Mossad has undergone in the last year, while using undiplomatic language about senior officials in Israel's spy agency. "We underwent a total revolution a year ago… the prima donnas during the process were the branch heads," said Pardo. "We built a level of directors above them, according to subjects that everyone uses the ability of all the rest of the branches… it was a rebirth of the organization."

The Movement for the Quality of Government asked the prime minister in the wake of Haaretz's expose whether or not the head of the Mossad had asked permission from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to participate in the meeting.

"There's no doubt this forum is full of money and influence, but it is not enough to justify the appearance of the head of the Mossad as described in the article," wrote the movement's legal adviser, Tzruya Meidad-Luzon in a letter she sent to Netanyahu.

"We would like the honor of asking at what frequency and before which civilian audiences the head of the Mossad appeared in the past year. We would appreciate information – how does one coordinate a parlor meeting with the head of the Mossad involving citizens who do not generate annual turnover of $40 million, what is the procedure of approving such a parlor meeting, and what was the approval process of the parlor meeting before members of the forum in question. We would like the honor of requesting clarifications and detailed answers to the above." 

Netanyahu and Pardo met Sunday at an event marking 50 years since the creation of the Mossad's operations branch. Pardo tried to rephrase his remarks from the private event, in which he said that the conflict with the Palestinians was more of a threat than the Iranian issue. "The Mossad is first and foremost obligated to preventing Iran from achieving military nuclear capabilities, that is our greatest mission," he said."

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