The changing Mossad: Frontrunner for next director is former Air Force chief
The Israeli government’s decision Sunday, June 28, to extend Meir Dagan’s service as director of Israel’s external intelligence service, the Mossad, until the end of 2010 raised some dust in political circles – especially after his deputy resigned in a huff over the long wait for his turn at the helm.
As DEBKA-Net-Weekly 396 revealed on May 15 this year, the decision to lengthen Dagan’s service to eight years in all was actually taken last May by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the minister in charge of intelligence Dan Meridor for the sake of an orderly transition. They wanted to be sure the new man was right for the task by giving the retiring and incoming directors time to work in harness for a six-month crossover period.
The former prime minister Ariel Sharon tried this in early 2002 when he appointed the deputy chief of staff Amiram Levin second-in-command to the Mossad director, ready to step into his shoes when he retired. Levin proved to be the wrong man for the job and was replaced by Meir Dagan after five months.
As insurance against such mistakes, Netanyahu decided put the new man to work alongside Dagan without title or commitments. If he proved worthy, he would be named deputy and future director from May 2010. This would leave enough time for him to be finally groomed for the top post.
Dagan’s current deputy “T” was the front runner until he quit, convinced that waiting for the appointment without the title in his pocket would detract from his professional standing.
“T” is known to be one of the most talented operations officers in the service. But he has his limitations -primarily that his intelligence expertise does not encompass operating on a regional or international scale.
Two leading candidates remain in the field. The first is former Air Force chief, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Eliezer Shkedy, 52, who up until 2006 created the force’s “Iran Command” and prepared the Air and Missiles forces, including the Arrow missile interceptor unit, for a potential war with Iran. He has the reputation among his peers at home and in Western military circles as one of the Israeli armed forces’ finest tacticians.
In 2008, Shkedy was the top candidate for president of the high-prestige Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but the Kadima party, which then headed government, preferred to give the job to a party lawmaker.
The second serious bidder for Mossad director is Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yediya Yaari, 62, the successful director of Rafael, Israel’s Arms Development Authority. As commander of the Israeli Navy in the 1990s, he directed and led several daring undercover missions. He therefore has valuable experience in covert operations behind enemy lines.
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