Ex-Mossad chief ‘threatened’ ICC prosecutor to drop Israel investigation – report

Former head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, reportedly pressured former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to close the investigation of Israeli war crimes, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, Cohen and Bensouda secretly met in the years preceding her decision to open an official investigation in 2021 on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Palestinian territories.

The Guardian noted that Cohen’s involvement against the ICC occurred while he served as head of the Mossad. The report cited an Israeli source that noted that the Mossad sought to “compromise the prosecutor or enlist her as someone who would cooperate with Israel’s demands.”

Another source told The Guardian that Cohen was acting as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “unofficial messenger.”

Cohen made veiled threats to the ICC prosecutor
The Guardian quoted Cohen as saying, “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.”

Other reports of intimidation were revealed by The Guardian, which added that the Mossad, under Cohen’s tenure, took an interest in the prosecutor’s family, even obtaining transcripts of conversations between Bensouda and her husband in an attempt to use these conversations to discredit her.

An individual, quoted by The Guardian, stated that Cohen used “despicable tactics” against the former prosecutor, even likening his behavior to “stalking.”

Additionally, in the attempts to sway Bensouda, Israel was reportedly supported by Joseph Kabila, former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who played an unknown role in supporting the plot.

The investigation came to light following Karim Khan, Bensouda’s successor, announcing his intention to seek arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, among them Netanyahu.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, when contacted by The Guardian, said, “The questions forwarded to us are replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the state of Israel.”

Yossi Cohen, the former Mossad chief, was also a former close confidant of Netanyahu. He joined the Mossad in the early 1980s and was appointed as head of the Mossad by Netanyahu in 2015. He retired from Israeli intelligence in 2021.

Cohen has been involved in other controversial incidents as Mossad chief. Earlier in May, he told the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) that the Israeli government approached Qatar to fund civilian life in the Gaza Strip, including negotiating transfers of money to Hamas.

The New York Times also substantiated Cohen’s remarks, noting that he managed the Qatari file for several years while serving as Mossad chief. The report stated that during his final years as Mossad head, he believed “there was little oversight over where the money was going.”