A wave of Arab media are reacting to the Israeli elections by predicting that Likud will soon have a new leader, one who will carry on Netanyahu’s tradition in a spiritual vein.
Middle East Monitor (MEMO), a media focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which has been accused of being pro-Hamas, described a report on Sunday in Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper,an independent pan-Arab daily newspaper. The Arabic language Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote that Chief of Israeli Mossad, Yossi Cohen, was preparing to succeed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the head of the Likud party. The Arab report was based on an article the Hebrew language Yediot Aharonoth which claimed that Netanyahu had chosen Cohen as his successor and that Cohen had expressed his desire to accept.
A report on Israeli channel Hadashot TV said the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency Yossi Cohen and the United States were involved in diplomatic efforts to formalise ties, which could be made public before Israel’s election next year. https://t.co/EdCQcVBtRJ
— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 9, 2018
The possibility of a Netanyahu replacement was quickly picked up by other Arab media. Iran Press took it one step further, claiming the change was imminent:
“After the election which led to disappointing results for Netanyahu and his Likud party, it seems the countdown has already commenced for Netanyahu to step down as the head of the party. Also, Cohen mentioned that he had started to receive calls asking whether he intended to accept a position as Netanyahu’s successor.
Cohen has said: “I am naturally attracted to leadership in politics, diplomacy and strategic issues. This might push me to think of something like this [leading Likud].”
Cohen’s term as Mossad leader ends in 2020, and he has disclosed that he would consider this option after completing his term, noting that he has received thousands of positive recommendations after publicizing the issue of succeeding Netanyahu.
In the past, Netanyahu has hinted that Yossi Cohen might be a replacement for him, among other figures within the Likud party.
Other Arab media reported the story about Cohen possibly replacing Netanyahu.
It is interesting to note that Cohen and Netanyahu share a common trait that affects their role as leaders of Israel. Netanyahu is a Levite and Cohen, as his name implies, is a Kohen (from the priestly caste) which is a subset of the tribe of Levi. This trait was noted in a Tweet on the eve of the elections last week by Gil Hoffman, the chief political correspondent analyst for the Jerusalem Post.
Biblical ramifications of #IsraElex19v2: If @netanyahu loses, it ends the longest reign of the Levite tribe over Israel since Hasmonean dynasty ended in 67 BCE. @gantzbe & @yairlapid are not. Possible Likud successor @Israel_katz is a Kohen & @YuliEdelstein‘s father is a priest.
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) September 16, 2019
Hoffman noted that Yisrael Katz, a veteran member of Likud who held several key positions over the years, is a Kohen.
It should be noted that the tribe of Levy served in the Temple and had political responsibilities as well. The Hasmonean, a dynasty of Kohanim, ruled over Judea and surrounding regions from 140 BCE until they were deposed in 37 BCE by Herod the Great, an Edomite whose ancestors had converted to Judaism.
No one knew that Netanyahu was a Levite until 2011 when a Likud conference was held in Tzfat (Safed). At the afternoon prayers, the rabbi asked if there was a Levite for the appropriate portion of the Torah reading and Netanyahu announced that he was a Levite. It is now common knowledge however it is significant that he first made this known in Tzfat, which means ‘to look out over.’ It was so named since it overlooks the upper Galilee which is prophesied to be the first pace the Messiah will be revealed.
Netanyahu has entertained appointing a successor as was reported in the Times of Israel two weeks ago.
“There are two people I consider fit to lead the State of Israel — Yossi Cohen and Ron Dermer,” Netanyahu was quoted by the Walla news site as telling his associates.
Netanyahu chose to not mention more senior Likud members, like Gideon Saar or Yuli Edelstein, as possible heirs. And unlike the Arab media, the Times of Israel understood Netanyahu’s statement as musings concerning the future of Likud’s leadership after he retires. The article emphasized that Netanyahu had no intention of relinquishing the reins of power in the near future.
Though Ron Dermer is not as Levitical as Yossi Cohen or Yisrael Katz, he is known as a strong supporter of Netanyahu and an outspoken critic of militant Islam’s role in the world today.