MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
chairman, called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a villainous liar on Monday,
after a member of the prime minister’s staff misquoted Mofaz while leaking
information to the press.
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In response, Likud MKs accused Mofaz of using
the committee as a platform for his Kadima primary campaign.
meeting of the committee, a spokesman for the prime minister told reporters that
Mofaz said IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz did not tell the truth in his
reports on the defense budget, a claim that Netanyahu vehemently
Mofaz’s media adviser, as well as a Knesset-employed spokesman
for the committee who is ostensibly neutral in political matters, said that
Mofaz said no such thing, but rather pointed out that the IDF does not report
its expenses in advance and Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak allowed
the defense budget to “get out of control” in 2011.
Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee discussions are usually closed to the press and cellphones are
not allowed in the committee room when meetings are in session. Often, a staff
member of the committee’s guest – in this case, Netanyahu – will leak details to
reporters. In addition, Knesset members walking in and out of the meeting
regularly talk to journalists sitting outside of the committee room during the
A briefing by the Knessetemployed spokesman, which covers
the nonconfidential portions of the meeting, is generally considered the most
reliable source of information on the committee.
After Mofaz’s spokesman
notified him that Arutz 7 (Israel National News) led its website with the
headline “Mofaz: The Chief of Staff lied,” the committee chairman cut the
meeting short, shouting and pointing at Netanyahu and his chief spokesman, Roni
“Your people instructed the media to say things that aren’t true!
Make your people tell the truth,” Mofaz yelled. “As far as I’m concerned, this
meeting is over. I will not continue. You can leave.”
aback, said he gave no such instruction.
“Calm down, you’re losing your
head,” the prime minister told Mofaz.
In fact, Netanyahu and Sofer sat
near Mofaz throughout the meeting, and the incorrect quote was leaked by a
lowerlevel spokesman who did not consult with his superiors.
Mofaz gathered parliamentary reporters to lament the “unprecedented, villainous
act callously perpetrated by the prime minister and his staff.”
citizens of Israel should know that their prime minister is a liar. Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a liar,” he repeated several times. “He is lying
to Israel about the economy, lying about diplomacy, and today he is also lying
about one of the most sensitive topics – the defense budget.”
explained that as a former IDF chief of staff, he takes offense at being accused
of saying such things about the current chief of staff. He also said that Gantz
is a personal friend, who he trusts and would never accuse of lying.
asked that the protocols and video recording of the meeting be released to the
media, but at press time, Knesset legal staff had yet to determine whether it
would be possible to do so.
However, Knesset legal advisor Eyal Inon sent
a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office and Gantz’s office saying that he
reviewed the protocol and at no point had Mofaz said that the chief of staff
Netanyahu refused to comment on the matter on-therecord; however,
the Likud released a statement slamming Mofaz’s “pathetic
According to the statement, the Kadima MK’s actions were
planned in advance as part of his party leadership campaign, and that Netanyahu
himself said he never heard Mofaz accuse Gantz of lying.
Later Monday, in
response to an unsuccessful no-confidence motion by Meretz, Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that Mofaz’s “use of a committee meeting
for a primary and to curse the prime minister are an embarrassment and a
Erdan scoffed at Mofaz’s claim that Netanyahu is a liar,
recalling that, in 2006, Mofaz sent a letter to Likud members that the party is
his home, and he would never leave it. Days later, Mofaz announced that he was
“When someone like this expresses an opinion about the
prime minister, it should not be taken seriously,” Erdan
Usually, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee is from a coalition party. However, in 2009, Netanyahu preferred to
trade with Kadima for the Economics Committee. At the time, the prime minister’s
allies warned him that Mofaz would use the committee to criticize him.