Former Mossad and intelligence officials have criticized former spy agency chief Yossi Cohen following an explosive investigative report that said he had disclosed state secrets to a flight attendant he was having an affair with, as well as to her then husband. .
In comments reported Wednesday, the day after Channel 13’s report, one of the former officials described Cohen as “crazy for power” and argued that his actions would have landed a lower-ranking official in jail.
Yet right-wing pundits and social media users appear to be supporting Cohen, dismissing the allegations in a manner similar to how they have supported Cohen’s close aide, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Channel 13’s investigative show HaMakor reported Tuesday that the romance began in late 2018 and saw Cohen brag to the couple about various secret details of the spy agency’s operations around the world, in addition to providing them with information about his global travel.
“He told many stories, including about Mossad,” Guy Shiker, a well-known figure in Israeli capital markets and the flight attendant’s ex-husband, told the program, who was not named. “He’s a loudmouth.”
Shiker said Cohen had told them in detail how he was recruited into the Mossad, how he had discovered the whereabouts of an Arab leader’s doctor and other secret details.
According to the report, Shiker had been briefed on Cohen’s global movements as Mossad chief, including a long flight from Chad to the United States after Netanyahu visited the African country as part of the warming ties. Another incident, which allegedly embarrassed Cohen with senior Mossad officials, involved Shiker’s discovery of Cohen’s movements being reported to the assistant spy chief.
The report said the events prompted Cohen to pay a visit to Shiker’s home to try to appease him, and that after that conversation, Cohen arranged for Shiker’s 23-year-old secretary to be drafted into the Mossad and stationed. in Bangkok, according to a request from Shiker.
Shiker said Cohen also shared details about his management style.
“He told me: ‘When I was appointed head of the Mossad, listen carefully, in ten days I fired six [top officials]… Because they weren’t loyal to the system. They weren’t good. They thought I was their best friend when we were equals. The moment I was appointed [I fired them], mercilessly.'”
Shiker also said that Cohen would send messages to his wife referring to her as “my princess” and “my beauty.”
“You love my wife, she loves you, you are destroying a family right now,” Shiker said.
Responding to the report, Cohen said that he never shared any security secrets or information that he was not supposed to.
Shiker’s ex-wife’s attorneys also rejected the allegations, saying: “Our client denies the claim related to an affair with Mr. Yossi Cohen. Mr. Cohen did not disclose to her or to Mr. Shiker any state secrets or details about the management of the organization he leads. “
But Channel 13 cited several former intelligence officials who attacked Cohen after the report.
“Yossi is being revealed as a great charlatan,” said retired IDF Colonel Yossi Langotsky, who even petitioned the High Court against Cohen. “He is being revealed as an uncontrolled and insane person with power who allows himself to say things that would have landed a lower-ranking official in jail.”
Former Mossad operations officer Gad Shomron said Cohen “talked much more than what is allowed for an operations officer.”
And Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy Mossad chief and current lawmaker for the centrist Yesh Atid party coalition who heads the Knesset’s powerful Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, told Army Radio that “there seem to be things [in the report] which are truly worrisome. “
Ben-Barak said any action against Cohen would have to wait until the second part of the investigation airs next week, “and we’ll see what develops from there.”
The report has important political undertones, as Cohen was long rumored to be weighing up a political career and was reported to be the preferred successor to opposition chief Netanyahu as leader of the right-wing Likud party.
Although Cohen has yet to enter the political arena, social media users and pro-Netanyahu experts in general have reacted to the report similar to previous reports of Netanyahu’s alleged misdeeds. Many have defended Cohen, expressing confidence in him, criticizing Shiker as jealous and vindictive, and calling the investigation mere “gossip.”
Cohen, who was appointed by Netanyahu, has said that he would not rule out the possibility of becoming prime minister one day, although he is not yet contemplating such an ambition.
Netanyahu is currently on trial for three corruption cases, most of which stem from media investigations. His supporters have long rallied, arguing that the cases against him are a witch hunt by a “leftist” police apparatus seeking to overthrow the right-wing popular leader.
Judging by responses to this week’s investigation by pro-Netanyahu Twitter users and media experts, the allegations against Cohen are being treated the same way.
Earlier this year, Cohen faced criticism for an interview in which he hinted that the Mossad blew up Iran’s underground centrifuge facility in Natanz, gave an accurate description of the 2018 operation in which the agency stole the nuclear archive of Iran from safes in a Tehran warehouse, he confirmed. that Iran’s top assassinated nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had been in the Mossad’s crosshairs for years, and said the regime must understand that Israel means what it says when it promises to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Since leaving Mossad, Cohen has faced several allegations of ethical violations, including a report earlier this month that said he helped secure his daughter a job at a company with ties to a senior Emirati official while still serving as the elder. Israel’s main spy.
In August, police began investigating various allegations against Cohen, including that he had been illicitly gifted $ 20,000.
Cohen admits to receiving the cash gift from Australian billionaire businessman James Packer for his daughter’s wedding, as Haaretz first reported in May. In a television interview in June, shortly after retiring as head of the spy agency, Cohen spoke for the first time about the incident. He claimed to have accepted the funds after consulting with Mossad legal counsel and said he was committed to returning the gift.
Cohen’s tenure as Mossad chief ended in June, when he was succeeded by David Barnea.
Days later, he was appointed head of Israel operations for Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank.