December 7, 2015 / 9:10 PM / 2 years ago

Israel's Netanyahu names security aide as new Mossad spy agency chief

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named his top national security adviser Yossi Cohen on Monday to head the secretive Mossad intelligence agency.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Cohen, a former Mossad operative, has been Netanyahu’s top security adviser for the past two years. He will replace Tamir Pardo, a Mossad veteran whose five-year term expires soon.

“Yossi has headed the National Security Council in the past years. He has great experience and achievements and has proven abilities in various aspects in the workings of the Mossad,” Netanyahu said in a live television announcement.

Cohen, 54, joined Mossad in 1983 and held several operational positions, rising to deputy director, a position he held between 2011-2013, before moving to the National Security Council, Netanyahu’s office said.

Mossad means institute in Hebrew and its full name is The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations. Its web site, www.mossad.gov.il, does not list the address of its headquarters or any phone numbers and does not say how may people it employs.

Pardo states on the website that Mossad’s main tasks include preventing the development and procurement of non-conventional - particularly nuclear - weapons by hostile countries and thwarting militant attacks on Israelis abroad.

The website also lists covert intelligence-gathering beyond Israel’s borders, developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations, extricating Jews from countries where official Israeli immigration agencies cannot operate and producing strategic, political and operational intelligence.

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, authorised the establishment of Mossad in December 1949, 19 months after the country’s founding. The agency is overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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