Spymaster Hails Chance for Peace with Arabs Sharing Iran Worries

HERZLIYA (Reuters) -
Yossi Cohen in December, 2015. (Reuters/Yossi Zeliger/File Photo)

Israel and U.S.-aligned Arab countries have what might be a unique chance to forge a regional peace deal given their shared worries about Iran, the chief of Israel’s Mossad spy service said on Monday.

In a rare public appearance, Yossi Cohen said his agency had formed a task force designed to spot peacemaking opportunities in a region where only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, have full ties with Israel.

“The Mossad today espies a rare opportunity, perhaps for the first time in Middle East history, to arrive at a regional understanding that would lead to a comprehensive peace accord,” he told the Herzliya Conference, an annual international security forum near Tel Aviv.

“Common interests, the fight against rivals such as Iran and Jihadist terrorism, the close relations with the White House and channels of communication with the Kremlin all combine to create what might be a one-time window of opportunity,” Cohen said.

Cohen, whose speech alluded to the Palestinians only in the context of threats against Israel from the armed factions, said many Arab countries “cannot stand Iran’s thuggish behavior.”

Cohen said Israel’s warming of relations with Oman, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited last October, followed “a lengthy covert effort by the Mossad” to seek out closer ties.

He pointed to what he termed “an expanding group of responsible, serious countries” – which he did not name – in the region that have “open channels of communication with Israel,” but no formal relations, and cooperate with it in various ways.