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Former agent Tzipi Livni hails boosted female leadership in Israel's Mossad

Israeli co-leader of the Zionist Union MP Tzipi Livni talks on the phone with citizens to try to convince them to vote for them, at the party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2015
Jack Guez (AFP/File)
Livni tells i24NEWS that the news signals a trend across Israel's defense and intelligence community

Israel’s former foreign minister and ex-spy Tzipi Livni has hailed the the appointment of two women as division heads at the Mossad, Israel’s feared overseas intelligence agency, and said that she hopes to soon see a female as the country’s top spymaster.

On Sunday the Yedioth Aharonot newspaper reported that two agents, known only as ‘S’ and ‘Y’ were recently appointed as heads of two unspecified divisions, meaning they will also sit in the spy agency’s top command forum.

While it is not the first time a woman has filled the position of division head, what was unprecedented is that the two women have simultaneously headed branches of the Mossad, defying the traditionally male-dominated upper echelons.

The news was widely welcomed in Israel.

“I was glad to hear that two women were taking more important positions in the Mossad. Frankly it should be the obvious but it's not the obvious … not yet,” Livni, now a Knesset member for the Zionist Union party, told i24NEWS in an interview on Tuesday.

Livni, who studied law and later went on to to serve in senior ministerial roles including deputy prime minister and foreign minister during the government of Ehud Olmert, also served in an unspecified position in the Mossad, reportedly in the early 1980s.

“When I joined the Mossad I thought there was no difference between me and the men,” Livni said. “But my dream was not to be the head of the Mossad. Today I truly hope that one day we will see a woman at the head of the Mossad.”

AP Photo/Oded Balilty

While women reportedly make up 40% of the revered intelligence organization’s workforce, only 24% of those are in top-level positions.

“When it comes to the Mossad it’s not about your physical fitness. What you need to have is something women can do, you know, from the field, to being head of the Mossad in the future.”

She added that “you can see it in the army and the Shin Bet: there is more understanding now that women can take part in Israel’s security without any discrimination and this is a change and a trend that I think is a very good one.”

In January the Mossad -- which maintains a formidable reputation in the global security community -- embarked on an advertising blitz in order to attract more women to its ranks.

According to Yedioth Aharonot, one of the new division heads has served in various roles in the organization’s complex human resources division, and the other has served in several Mossad branches, including in covert operations and the division that “handles” agents abroad.

The highest ranking female Mossad agent is Aliza Magen, who served as deputy director of the agency in the 1990s.

MK Tzipi Livni was interviewed by i24NEWS defense correspondent Chloe Lew. 

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