Israeli PM names new Shin Bet chief

10:53, March 30, 2011      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced to appoint Yoram Cohen as the next chief of the Shin Bet security agency.

Netanyahu said in a televised announcement late Monday that in recent months he was preoccupied "with the important question" of choosing a successor to the agency's outgoing director Yuval Diskin, who will step down on May 15.

"I selected Yoram from among the cream of the crop. He was the spearhead of activity in the agency over the past years," Netanyahu said, adding that "Cohen is a real field man."

The appointment still requires the approval of the Turkel Committee, which vets candidates for senior civil service positions.

Cohen, 51, joined Shin Bet in 1982 following his discharge from an elite infantry unit in the Israeli army. He has risen through the ranks, serving in a host of positions: as a field agent in charge of recruiting informants, head of the Arab-Iranian counterintelligence bureau, and head of the Jerusalem and West Bank Division, among others.

Israeli media on Monday reported that the security agency was stunned by the appointment. In spite of Cohen's rich experience, Diskin had unequivocally favored his current deputy as heir.

Local daily Yedioth Aharonot quoted Shin Bet agents calling Netanyahu's decision "a slap in Diskin's face."

But former senior members of the agency hailed the appointment, saying that Cohen is the best man for the job. "He has more than left his fingerprints on a very large chunk of the service's abilities and achievements," lawmaker Israel Hasson, a former deputy Shin Bet chief, told local daily Ha'aretz.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Cohen, a father of five who lives in Jerusalem, will also be the first observant Jew to head Shin Bet.

Source: Xinhua
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