(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin took Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s side Wednesday in his feud with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over information provided to Bennett by IDF commanders.
On Tuesday, the IDF revoked former army chief rabbi, Brig.-Gen. Rabbi Avihai Ronski’s access to operational activity ostensibly because he leaked confidential information to Bennett, a security cabinet member, during Operation Protective Edge. Bennett said Ronski gave him no such information, but that he visited many military bases over the course of the operation and spoke to dozens of soldiers and commanders.
According to Bennett, the information he received on such visits led him to call for the IDF to attack Hamas terrorist tunnels from Gaza into Israel, which it eventually did. However, Bennett said he did not discuss such matters with Ronski, and Ya’alon is using the rabbi to hurt the Bayit Yehudi leader politically.
Diskin backed Bennett, saying that his stance is important for Israeli democracy, because prime ministers and defense ministers have total control over the security cabinet.
“The fact that Bennett, a cabinet member, decided not to trust the existing mechanisms for transferring information, took initiative, went out in the field, learned the facts and came prepared to a cabinet meeting and even challenged the prime minister, defense minister and other cabinet members, deserves praise, in my opinion, certainly if it was the main reason that the threat of attack tunnels was brought up in a serious discussion, resulting in many of them being destroyed,” Diskin wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Prime ministers and defense ministers “have total control over the topics discussed, the agenda and the level of intelligence and information that cabinet members receive on different topics,” Diskin recounted from his experience attending many cabinet meetings as Shin Bet chief.
According to Diskin, cabinet members are just “statistics” in most meetings, whom the prime minister and defense minister don’t consider, and many arrive unprepared, without knowing the topic being discussed.
Diskin pointed out that Operation Pillar of Defense took place a year-and-a-half before Operation Protective Edge and the tunnel threat was not taken care of or publicized, and as such, Diskin assumed cabinet members were not informed of it and did not discuss it, either.
“In light of this, one can estimate that it is highly likely that Bennett’s claim is correct and that if he did not insist, the topic would not be discussed, because the prime minister and defense minister would try to sway the conversation to a ceasefire without a ground operation to destroy the tunnels,” he wrote.
The former Shin Bet chief called for there to be a process in which cabinet members will be able to receive all the intelligence they need to effectively participate in debates and vote, while at the same time requiring them to keep the information confidential and face sanctions if they release it.
“There is still a question to which, in my opinion, the public must receive a clear answer,” Diskin wrote. “Did the prime minister and defense minister aim for a cease-fire in the beginning of the operation, even though they knew the severity of the attack tunnel phenomenon and did not inform the cabinet of it?” “We will wait patiently for an answer,” he concluded.