Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering polygraph tests for all
participants at Tuesday’s security cabinet meeting to find the source of a leak
he said was making holding sensitive discussions impossible.
reported that Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen met with
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
an unprecedented and dramatic move, Netanyahu adjourned – shortly after it began
– the second part of a security cabinet meeting that began on Tuesday and dealt
with Iran and the Israel intelligence community’s annual
“Something grave happened shortly after the conclusion of the
meeting yesterday: leaks from the security cabinet meeting,” the prime minister
said at the outset of the meeting, according to a statement issued by his
Netanyahu convened the security cabinet on Tuesday for an annual
meeting on the country’s intelligence assessments, a meeting that dealt in depth
with the Iranian issue.
Netanyahu said the security of the country rested
on the ability of the security cabinet to hold classified and indepth
discussions where all the “facts, opinions and implications” were
“This is a basic tool in managing the country’s security.
Yesterday, someone severely undermined the confidence that Israeli citizens give
to this forum,” he said. “He violated the most basic rules regarding the conduct
of security cabinet discussions. He also hurt the good name of those present at
the meeting who did not leak its contents,” Netanyahu added.
prime minister did not say what report aroused his ire – and the offending
information may indeed have been banned from publication by the military censor
– the lead headline in Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot read: “Disagreement about
Iran among the intelligence agencies.”
According to the story, the
members of the security cabinet were shocked to hear that the country’s
intelligence agencies – the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence – do not
agree about the Iranian issue.
According to the report, the disagreement
is over the so-called “zone of immunity,” that period where the Iranians will
have progressed on their nuclear program beyond the point where an Israeli attack would be effective.
Netanyahu, adjourning the
second part of the meeting, told the ministers that he did not have anything
against the media, which was just doing its job. “I have a grievance against the
person who broke the most basic trust needed to hold security cabinet meetings,
and harmed the ability to hold classified meetings. I have a responsibility to
the citizens of Israel and to the country’s security, and therefore I am
disbanding this meeting.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the first in-depth
session on Iran held by the security cabinet in months. When Netanyahu came
under criticism in the past for not holding an in-depth meeting in the security
cabinet on such a fateful issue, one counter argument put forward by government
officials was concern that the deliberations would be leaked out of the forum
because it includes 14 voting members and four observers. By comparison,
Menachem Begin’s entire cabinet in 1977 only had 13 ministers.
government source said it seemed as if Netanyahu wanted to send a message to the
security cabinet, and to draw a line in the sand that it would be impossible to
hold serious discussions if it was inevitable that the information would leak
Wednesday’s developments led immediately to calls for a smaller body
to be set up to deal with highly sensitive security matters. Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman has proposed such a forum as part of his wider plan to change
the governmental system, and Government Services Minister Michael Eitan said the
cabinet should empower a smaller body to deal with the Iranian
“It cannot be that the plague of leaks will nullify the
obligation for consultation,” he said. “The failure of the security cabinet to
keep secrets proves that a government of 29 ministers cannot hold deliberations
The suitable compromise is a smaller forum that can hold
discussions and decide without the unnecessary and dangerous leakage of
While Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, which is made up of
himself and eight other ministers, can give an advisory opinion on whether to
attack Iran, the law stipulates that the decision needs to be made by the
security cabinet. The security cabinet could also choose to bring such a
decision to the full 29-member cabinet, which historically has been the case
when dealing with decisions to go to war or to embark on major military
Such, for instance, was the case when the decision was made
to launch the Sinai Campaign in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, and the First
Lebanon War in 1982, as well to embark on the Entebbe raid in 1976 and to attack
the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.
In addition to Netanyahu, the security
cabinet includes Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Justice Minister Yaakov
Neeman, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz, Construction and Housing Minister Arial Attias, Minister Bennie Begin,
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Energy
and Water Minister Uzi Landau, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor,
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Regional Development Minister Silvan
The cabinet members with observer status in this forum are
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, Culture and Sport Minister
Limor Livnat, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Minister-without- Portfolio
Others at Tuesday’s meeting included Attorney-General
Weinstein, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, Chief of General Staff
Benny Gantz and the heads of the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military
The meeting, which lasted some 10 hours, took place at the
Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv, with Wednesday’s continuation of the meeting in
This is not the first time Netanyahu has had to deal with
leaks to the media.
In July 2010 he ordered polygraph tests for senior
officials in his office after sensitive information was leaked to a
Uzi Arad, his national security adviser at the time, lost his
job as a result, though earlier this year the then-deputy attorney-general said
in a Knesset committee meeting that Arad was not the source of the leak.
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