Opinion |

Ex-Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen Can Be Israelis' Next Netanyahu

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the outgoing head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and the incoming head of the Mossad, David (Dedi) Barnea, at the farewell event for Yossi Cohen in May.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the outgoing head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and the incoming head of the Mossad, David (Dedi) Barnea, at the farewell event for Yossi Cohen in May.Credit: Kobe Gideon/Government Press Office
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

If ex-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen wants it, he is the next Bibi. Handsome, well spoken, a charmer in one-on-one settings. Ask Ilana Dayan and a few other serious journalists who were won over by his charisma. A little chatty, a bit of a leaker, but nothing we haven’t seen before in his former boss. With all due respect to his boasting of James Bond-style exploits in front of the husband he cuckolded, Cohen has already disclosed much more serious things – for example, the classified methods of attack in Iran. The televised “file cabinets performance” about the stolen nuclear archives from Iran was a joint Netanyahu-Cohen production.

Part 1 of the investigation of Cohen on Channel 13’s “Hamakor” this week only heightens his popularity among the Bibi-ists: Now he can add an episode with a stewardess to his resumé. The Bibi-ists are already in his pocket. The mouthpieces didn’t even wait for the broadcast before starting their assault: Yinon Magal, Eli Tzipori, Naveh Dromi and Co. – they’re all in the trenches. Somehow, family values and state security bother the populist right less when the truly important thing – returning to power – is on the table.

The Bibi-ists are starting to realize, even subconsciously, that the Netanyahu story is over. His legal situation is bad. He has no visible way to bring down the government, and if they insist on analyzing polls, then even on paper they’re nowhere close to forming a coalition. The wiser Bibi-ists know you can’t replace a government on Twitter, or in the sycophantic broadcast studios. They also know that Yisrael Katz and Nir Barkat are not the stuff of which dreams are made. Yossi Cohen is. There’s even a whiff of populism and religiosity about him, two characteristics missing from the portfolio of the atheist Ashkenazi millionaire from Caesarea, the savior of “second Israel.”

No less important to Cohen’s image is the identity of those preparing to go after him. It’s those Raviv Druckers again. Those annoying two, Gidi Weitz and Gur Megiddo, will certainly show up very soon and so will Amnon Abramovich and Baruch Kra. Weitz, who broke the Walla bribery affair (Case 4000), reported this year that Cohen received $20,000 from the unfortunate billionaire James Packer as a gift for his daughter’s wedding. This is the same generous neighbor Packer whom the Netanyahu family turned into its supply closet, and whom Arnon Milchan drafted to share the burden of champagne and jewelry for Sara. Packer also gave Cohen tickets for a concert by his then-partner, Mariah Carey, and access to his clandestine apartment in Tel Aviv.

Megiddo reported in TheMarker on Cohen’s network of connections with tycoons like Rami Unger and the Mirilashvili family (Channel 14), who gave a million shekels ($315,000) to the synagogue where Cohen prays. Yossi Mizrahi of Channel 12 News just reported that Cohen’s daughter Ahinoam is employed at a company owned by the Emirati Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, Cohen’s opposite number in the crafting of the Abraham Accords.

Anyone who is disappointed or shocked by this heap of conflicts of interest, of the serial pattern of advancing personal and family interests while handling strategic affairs of state, and of the megalomania, hedonism and attraction to the mega-rich, must understand the reverse image: These are precisely the qualities that light up the Bibi-ists.

Cohen has already announced to Ilana Dayan: “I know I pay a price for being identified with Netanyahu.” So the prospects for playing the persecuted victim are all lined up. Soon enough we’ll hear about a “witch-hunt.”

The well-known truth is that Cohen was appointed Mossad chief after he took pains to build a connection with Sara Netanyahu. Unlike the two rival candidates who had seemingly better chances, he agreed to declare personal loyalty to the boss and not just the state. The logical assumption is that the familia tabbed him as the successor to the throne because of his commitment to enter the political arena only after the end of the Netanyahu era. Then again, it’s no less logical to assume that a clear breaking of this commitment would conclusively turn Cohen, in the eyes of the Bibi-ists, into the real thing.

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