PM, defense minister, Rivlin meet over FADC concerns

FADC chair complains Netanyahu keeping information from c'tee, says Defense Ministry absence from meeting is a "stomp on democracy.”

September 11, 2011 14:23
2 minute read.
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin

Rivlin 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minster Ehud Barak met on Sunday afternoon following complaints from Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC) chairman Shaul Mofaz that Netanyahu was withholding security information from the committee.

Rivlin, who was attempting to mediate between the legislative and executive branches, said he told the two that if the prime minister or defense minister sought to withhold information from the FADC, or prevent sensitive information about security developments from being presented before the committee in "real time," then the two must appear before the committee themselves in order to explain the situation.

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Rivlin addressed the concern that the FADC had grown in terms of the number of sub-committee members, impeding the government's willingness to present security information while a threat may still be relevant. He said the concern was legitimate, and would be examined.

The Knesset speaker will meet with Mofaz next week.

The schism between the FADC and the executive government widened on Sunday, as  representatives of the Defense Ministry did not attend a joint Foreign Affairs and Defense – Finance Committee meeting on the ministry’s request to transfer NIS 620 million of the current budget to security needs.

Mofaz said “the Defense Ministry’s decision shows that it continues to stomp on democracy.”

However, IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz did appear before the committee on Sunday to discuss intelligence available to the military before the terror attack on the border near Eilat. Gantz answered most of the committee’s questions in a meeting that was closed to the press, although the IDF’s investigation of the incident is still not complete.

Representatives of the Shin Bet were stopped twice last week by Netanyahu from testifying before the committee about the attacks near the border with Egypt, as was OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi last Sunday.

"According to the law and Knesset regulations, a Knesset committee may demand information from the government, and part of the government's role is to provide the information," Mofaz wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister last week. "The Shin Bet representative is required to come to the committee and present whatever information he has on the meeting's topic. However, as the minister responsible for the Shin Bet, you may address the committee instead.”

Mofaz has also accused Netanyahu of preventing the Knesset from supervising the executive branch by withholding information.

"We are in the middle of an investigation about an event that is not yet complete," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement Thursday night. "We are also in the middle of an event that may develop into further terrorist attacks, and we must allow security forces to stop them."

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