Mossad head Yossi Cohen reportedly criticized IDF chief’s speech last week, in which he warned the U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal would be a mistake, sources said Sunday.
Criticism was reported from a source inside the defense establishment after Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi told Institute for National Security Studies at the Tel Aviv University that a return to the 2015 agreement “must not be allowed to occur.”
Cohen, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to hold talks in Washington on Iran’s nuclear capabilities with U.S. President Joe Biden and his security team next month.
The premier, contrary to initial expectations, has yet to publicly back Kochavi in an apparent effort to preserve relations with Joe Biden before he or his cabinet announce any official position.
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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, himself a former IDF chief, said that such statements should “remain behind closed doors.”
Cohen, according to sources, believes that any deliberations with the White House on Iran should remain away from the public view and voiced his reservation over Israel presenting its position before the new U.S. administration even begun talks with Iran.
Recent years have seen close security partnerships between Washington and Jerusalem, which according to foreign reports led to several operations inside the Islamic Republic, including the killing of Al Qaeda’s No. 2 Abu Muhammad al-Masri and chief Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Last week, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie arrived in Israel for talks with both Kochavi and Cohen.
According to security sources, the Mossad director, who is a supporter of a hawkish stance against the Islamic Republic, believes that the U.S. position on Iran could be influenced by recent relevant findings, and if Biden does eventually decide to return to the nuclear deal, Israel would have to work as hard as it can to ensure that its interests are considered.
Cohen is set to leave his post in June and become the government’s chief advisor for Iran affairs. His position on Kochavi’s statements can be attributed to his effort to remain on a good footing with the Biden administration.
Security officials in Israel were also surprised that the IDF chief “exposed” to Iran that the army currently does not have any operational plans for a possible attack against the Islamic Republic. Kochavi said in his speech that the military was instructed by him to prepare optional military strike plans.