Yosef "Yossi" Meir Cohen (Hebrew: יוסף מאיר כהן; born 10 September 1961)[2] was the Director of Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel.

Yossi Cohen
יוסי כהן
Director of Mossad
In office
January 2016 – June 2021[1]
Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu
Preceded byTamir Pardo
Succeeded byDavid Barnea
9th National Security Advisor (Israel)
In office
August 2013 – January 2016
Preceded byYaakov Amidror
Personal details
Born (1961-09-10) 10 September 1961 (age 62)

Early life

Cohen was born in Jerusalem to a religious family and grew up in the Katamon neighborhood. His father Aryeh was an eighth-generation Sabra who was descended from one of the founding families of the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. He worked in a senior position at Bank Mizrahi and was also an Irgun veteran.[3] His mother Mina was a teacher and school principal.[4] She was a seventh-generation Sabra, born to a Jewish family rooted in Hebron, now part of the West Bank.

Cohen was raised in a religious household and was a member of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement. He attended the religious high school Yeshivat Or Etzion.[5]


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, flanked by U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations Frank Lowenstein and Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, on 11 November 2015, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Cohen was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1979. He volunteered as a paratrooper in the 35th Paratroopers Brigade. He served as a soldier and a squad leader.[6] After being discharged, he studied at university in London, and joined the Mossad in 1982. Cohen has been described as 'able to inspire the confidence of his charges'.[7] He became a case officer, charged with recruiting and handling spies in foreign nations. While in training, he had been the only religious candidate in the Mossad's case officer course at the time.[5] He ran agents in a number of countries over his career, and rose to lead the Mossad's collections division ("Tsomet").[8] From 2011 to 2013, he was the deputy director of the Mossad,[9] serving under Tamir Pardo. He was known publicly as "Y" (Hebrew: "י") in this post.[10] Cohen won the prestigious Israel Security Prize for his Mossad work.[11]

In August 2013 he was appointed the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel. In December 2015, Cohen was appointed to succeed Tamir Pardo as director of Mossad.[12][13] and assumed office in January 2016. Cohen is one of the closest officials to Netanyahu.[14]

In January 2018, Cohen oversaw the Mossad operation to steal Iran's secret nuclear archive in Tehran and smuggle it out of the country.[14] According to the Jerusalem Post, a map of nuclear sites captured in the operation has not yet been made public.[14] Among the assassinations attributed to the Mossad during Cohen's tenure were those of Hamas drone expert Mohamed Zouari in Tunisia, Hamas rocket expert Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh in Malaysia, and Iranian nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Iran.[15][16][17]

Cohen has also been the chief Israeli official in charge of managing Israel's largely clandestine relations with various Arab nations. He has often met with representatives of Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar and helped negotiate Netanyahu's visit to Oman in 2018. Reportedly, he met Sudan's chief of intelligence, though the Sudanese intelligence service denied it. He was Israel's chief negotiator in arranging the Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement.[18][19][20]

Intelligence reporter Ronen Bergman has written that Cohen has a reputation as a tough boss, that he speaks fluent English, French, and Arabic,[21] and is also a marathon runner.[22] Cohen is nicknamed "the Model"[23] for his stylish appearance.[7]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly considered Cohen to be the best person to succeed him as prime minister when he leaves office.[14] In September 2019, The Jerusalem Post listed Cohen as the most influential Jew of the year.[24]

In June 2021, Cohen retired from Israel’s national intelligence agency[25]

Political views

At a conference in 2019 in Herzliya, Israel, Cohen announced that Israel has a unique window of opportunity to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians. He stated that this is also the view of the Mossad unit whose job it is to analyze diplomatic opportunities. Given the present good relations with the United States, the Russian government, and restoration of partial diplomatic ties with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf centered around opposition to Iran, in Cohen's view there is a one-time opportunity for Middle East peace under terms very beneficial to Israel that the Israeli government must now seize.[26]

The Jerusalem Post reported in September 2019 that Cohen "does not believe anything will move on the peace process until Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas leaves office."[14]


Cohen and his wife Aya have four children.[11] One of his sons, Yonatan, is a former officer in Unit 8200 and has cerebral palsy.[27] He also has one granddaughter. Cohen lives in Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut and is a Masorti Jew.[28]


  1. ^ "We penetrated 'heart of hearts' of Iran, outgoing Mossad head exalts at farewell". www.timesofisrael.com. 1 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Deputy Mossad chief appointed national security adviser". The Times of Israel. 21 August 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  3. ^ Raoul Wootliff, "Netanyahu said set to tap Yossi Cohen as next Mossad chief", Times of Israel, 7 December 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  4. ^ Tom Dolev, "The next Mossad Director – Yossi Cohen" Archived 2015-12-10 at the Wayback Machine, Jerusalem Online, 7 December 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b Wootliff, Raoul. "Netanyahu said set to tap Yossi Cohen as next Mossad chief". www.timesofisrael.com.
  6. ^ Chaim Levinson, A Golden Age for the Mossad: More Targets, More Ops, More Money, Haaretz, 26 August 2018. (Archived)
  7. ^ a b "The Israeli spymaster straight out of Le Carré". The Independent. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Veteran Spy-Runner Moves from Mossad to be Netanyahu's Chief Advisor on National Security — Iran Options Are a Key Focus". IsraelSpy.com. 21 August 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Jewish 100, 2015: Yossi Cohen – Government". Algemeiner.com.
  10. ^ Ronen Bergman (5 June 2011). "Mossad chief names new deputy". Ynetnews. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  11. ^ a b Herb Keinon (21 August 2013). "PM names deputy Mossad head as new National Security council chief". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Yossi Cohen is next Mossad Director". Debka.com. 7 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Yossi Cohen named new Mossad chief". The Jerusalem Post. 7 December 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Yossi Cohen: The Mossad spy chief who stole Iran's secret nuclear archive". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  15. ^ Kylie Atwood (2 December 2020). "US official says Israel was behind assassination of Iranian scientist". CNN.
  16. ^ Winer, Stuart; staff, T. O. I. "Malaysian police release photo of suspect in killing of Hamas rocket expert". www.timesofisrael.com.
  17. ^ "Hamas: Mossad agents carrying Bosnian passports behind Tunisia drone expert assassination". Haaretz.
  18. ^ staff, T. O. I. "From Mossad overtures to frenetic US diplomacy: How UAE deal reportedly happened". www.timesofisrael.com.
  19. ^ "Mossad chief likely to continue advancing Israel, UAE contacts". Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East.
  20. ^ "Sudan intel chief denies meeting Mossad head to talk supplanting nation's leader". www.timesofisrael.com.
  21. ^ "What the new boss of Mossad means for Israeli foreign policy". The Economist. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Is spy suited for role of Israeli premier's national security advisor?". i24news. 22 August 2013. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  23. ^ Ben Lynfield, "Yossi Cohen: The Israeli spymaster straight out of Le Carré and Ian Fleming takes charge of Mossad", The Independent, 8 December 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  24. ^ "50 Influencers 2019". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Key passages from outgoing Mossad chief's unprecedented TV interview". The Times of Israel. 21 June 2021. Archived from the original on 23 June 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  26. ^ Al-Monitor, 8 Jul. 2019, "Mossad Chief Exposes Vision of Peace, Calls to Act"
  27. ^ Itamar Eichner (26 August 2013). "Newly appointed National Security Advisor Cohen's son reveals moving family story". Ynetnews. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  28. ^ "i24NEWS". www.i24news.tv.

External links