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Israel cabinet approves new Shin Bet spy chief

The Israeli government on Sunday formally approved the appointment of Yoram Cohen as the new head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

world Updated: Apr 10, 2011 18:45 IST

The Israeli government on Sunday formally approved the appointment of Yoram Cohen as the new head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.



The cabinet voted unanimously to confirm Cohen, an Arabist with 30 years of experience at Shin Bet, a statement said.



"Yoram Cohen will be able to lead the Shin Bet in Israel's war against terror; in the intelligence and technological war," it quoted Netanyahu as telling ministers.



Cohen, 51, will replace Yuval Diskin, whose six-year term ends on May 15.



The new chief joined Shin Bet as a field agent in 1982, and worked largely in the occupied West Bank. He also spent a year in Lebanon.



He ran the agency's counter-terror unit in the West Bank, and spent four years as head of anti-terror operations in the Arab world and Iran. He also ran the Shin Bet's Jerusalem section.



From 2005 to 2008, he was deputy director of the agency, until going to the United States to carry out research on Islamist movements, particularly the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.



He is considered one of those who shaped Israel's policy of "targeted killings" during the second Palestinian uprising, which broke out in 2000.



Cohen is the first religiously observant Jew to be appointed to the top job at Shin Bet, and some have asked whether this would affect his ability to deal even-handedly with extremist settlers, most of whom are very religious.



Shin Bet officials quoted recently by Yediot Aharonot newspaper said that "would not detract from his professional activity against Jewish terror," although it was likely to mean he comes in for sharp criticism from the settler lobby and its backers.