Former Mossad director Yossi Cohen
Former Mossad director Yossi CohenFlash 90

Former Mossad director Yossi Cohen told Reshet Bet that he would not advise assassinating Hamas leaders in Qatar, and that disengaging from the Gaza Strip must be done completely and with no responsibility on Israel's part for the two million residents remaining.

“I feel that the 'Metro' tunnel system is more than just a few hundred kilometers. We are seeing a underground city with logistical preparations that allowed people to live in it. I think that I share your feelings of surprise. This is not a simple matter,” he said.

Regarding humanitarian deliveries to Gaza as the war goes on, he commented: “There is no doubt that this question is tearing us apart with the dilemma of what to do. It is not solely dependent on what we think. I think that Israel is less interested in seeing this happen, but on an economic level, we want more international sand in our hourglass to continue the war. If we want to reduce Hamas’ capabilities, we must listen to our allies in the United States of America, who want to ensure that we are not bringing about a humanitarian disaster. If it means preventing a humanitarian disaster, then I would support such a thing. I understand that in the north of the Gaza Strip the situation is getting worse, but I have no qualms about that because the Gaza Strip brought the disaster upon itself.”

Regarding the continuation of the war, Cohen commented: “I think that stopping the war is not something to be discussed. If we don't continue the war we will not reach a good prisoner exchange deal. I believe that despite all the ones we have killed, there are still thousands of Hamas operatives in underground tunnels, and the rest of the war will not be easy.”

When asked about Israel's responsibility for the humanitarian situation, he commented: “I think that what we see is exactly the dilemma that we have had in previous years. The government of Israel continued a hybrid situation of war with Hamas and allowing humanitarian aid to Gaza. With the Disengagement, I support complete disengagement. If we are going to disengage, we should disengage. Like we locked the gate to Lebanon. In Gaza, we are making a mistake in this area. This was the ‘concept,’ the state policy I supported as head of the National Security Council and director of the Mossad. At any rate, I have said that such a thing was a mistake. Just a short while after leaving the organization I said it was a mistake to give Hamas money.”

As someone considered a candidate for Prime Minister in the future, Cohen was asked about the matter of Israel's responsibility for the Gaza Strip. On this, he commented: “First of all, I have not yet decided whether to enter politics or not. If I wanted to give my opinion, I would say that we should completely disengage. When the war dies down we cannot continue to live with the Gaza Strip. The population of Gaza should not continue to be under Israel's responsibility.”

Regarding publications that there are no political deliberations underway regarding the day after the war ends, he commented: “According to those publications, if they are correct, that is a mistake. I received a sort of mandate to create a solution for the day after. If we don't deliberate on it ahead of time, and it is not too late, and if there are no deliberations on underway already, we must have them. One way or another, I think that the war must reach a state of defeat and an end. When we declare that we have destroyed the organization, we must build something that is not under Israel's responsibility. I am not recommending Israel take responsibility, hybrid or otherwise. We need to build a sort of pan-Arab international coalition, like the one that took responsibility for other war zones in the world. It is not a fantasy, but it will be a great effort.”

When asked why Israel has not yet assassinated Hamas leaders in Qatar or Gaza, he said: “I would want to see that as well. There does not need to be any public instruction in such a matter. My position as head of the organization was that no public directives were needed to neutralize a person or place that threatens Israel. If a public directive was issued, I would be happy to see it carried out. I can relate to my term in office, and I think of the long and sophisticated arm of Israel, which we know to be able to reach any point on the globe. I would not recommend assassinations on Qatari soil right now, while it is the main mediator for hostage release agreements, but I would try to pressure them to expel Hamas leaders. And assassination is a political decision, not an operational problem.”