Ex-Mossad director dismisses China threat, criticizing hardline U.S policy

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Just days after stepping down as director of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen criticized U.S. policy toward China and hinted it was too hardline.

Why it matters: In a lecture on Monday, Cohen said he'd discussed China with many senior U.S. officials but always ended the conversations with more questions than answers.

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“If there is anybody here who knows what the U.S. wants from China, I would be happy to hear. I am not sure we fully understand if there is a coherent U.S. policy on China."

Yossi Cohen

Cohen stressed that China is a friendly country to Israel with extensive trade, science, research and tech relations.

  • “We need to be careful not to refer to China as a challenge. We don’t want to create a confrontation with the Chinese who do not conspire against us in any way," he added.

Why it matters: Cohen was until last week one of the most powerful and influential security officials in Israel. All signs show he wants to move into politics after his cooling-down period ends.

  • In his final weeks as Mossad chief, Cohen visited Washington for talks with CIA director Bill Burns and other senior officials, and he even met President Biden.

The backstory: The Trump administration repeatedly pressed Israel to cool relations with China and limit Chinese investments. The Biden administration also views China as America's top foreign policy challenge.

Worth noting: Cohen is close with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an ultra China hawk. Pompeo was in Israel last week for Cohen’s retirement party.

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