The only surprise in Tamir Pardo’s appointment as Mossad director is the fact that none of his close associates has yet to stab him in the back. And that’s not a small matter. After all, it has been customary around here as of late to eliminate candidates to top public service positions even before they were selected, ranging from the army chief to the Israel Police commissioner.
It almost happened to Pardo too. His name was mentioned in connection with the Harpaz affair that tainted the race for IDF chief of staff. Yet luckily for Pardo, and for us, the prime minister and defense minister regained their senses and realized he was the most natural and mature candidate to enter the immense shoes of a man who will be remembered as one of the most prominent and brilliant Mossad chief we had here, Meir Dagan.
Tamir Pardo was in fact the prime minister’s original candidate for the job. Had it not been for the dark shadow of the Harpaz affair, which tainted anyone even remotely associated with it, even coincidently, Pardo would have been declared the next Mossad chief a while ago.
After all, Pardo is a “classic” Mossad man. He combines professional-operational abilities with political comprehension and diplomatic skill. Meir Dagan also recommended him as his replacement and supported the appointment the moment it was decided the candidate shall come from within Mossad.
The Mossad is, first and foremost, an operational body, and an operational organization, by definition, deals with the details. And so, the Mossad chief must be familiar with the finest details, just like the people who do the work in the field.
Given that the Mossad operates abroad – with all the political sensitivities this entails – the Mossad director is also the man who approves each and every operation. Here, there are no games. The Mossad chief has to be an unquestionable professional authority.
Indeed, we can bring talented people from outside the organization and teach them the job. Yet a person who grew within Mossad, accumulated experience, and was also burned – along with the entire organization – by the failures resulting from entanglement in the fine details, would spare Israel the cost of tuition.
Close ties with IDF
Tamir Pardo’s appointment is also important for the Mossad internally: An organization that is able to grow its own leaders, who reach the top thanks to their skills and are not stuck as deputies to directors who are always brought in from the outside, is a healthy organization. Look at the Shin Bet, where with the exception of one appointment that was the result of deep crisis saw its directors come from within the organization.
Moreover, an outside appointment as Mossad chief could have prompted a decline in the agency’s performance as result of retirement by senior officials who would realize their way to the top was blocked. In the Mossad, which is a relatively small organization with unique specialties, the learning curve of every manager is very long. The departure of senior officials could have prompted an automatic decline in performance, so Pardo’s appointment spares us this trouble as well.
Pardo’s familiarity with the organization guarantees that he would very quickly be able to set operational and organizational priorities. He knows the people and is familiar with the weak spots. Someone from the outside would have had to first learn and only later set priorities.
Pardo has another major advantage in terms of his close relationship with the military establishment in general and intelligence bodies in particular. Those familiar with inter-agency relationships, and not only in Israel, are aware of the immense energy invested in struggles between organizations.
Here there’s a good chance that we’ll be spared the historical friction. Tamir is not only well familiar with senior army officials on the personal level, he was also “loaned” to the IDF in order to manage special operations, such as the raid on Baalbek during the Second Lebanon War.
Pardo cannot be classified into a familiar category. He is unlike any previous Mossad chief. Yet those who cooperated with him speak of a highly talented man, with common sense, plenty of experience, quiet leadership, and a normal ego.
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