After public feud, chiefs of IDF and Shin Bet hold reconciliation meeting

The argument revolved around the Shin Bet's claim that it had provided an early warning of Hamas's intention to carry out a terror attack that could lead to war prior to Operation Protective Edge.

November 14, 2014 16:59
3 minute read.
Benny Gantz and Yoram Cohen

Benny Gantz and Yoram Cohen . (photo credit: PR)

The respective chiefs of the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) held a reconciliation meeting on Friday, following months of feuding that culminated in a public argument.

The controversy revolved around the Shin Bet’s claim that it had provided an early warning of Hamas’s intention to carry out a major terror attack that could lead to war, and the IDF’s denial of the existence of any intelligence alert prior to the 50-day conflict that erupted with Hamas this past summer.

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Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen visited the home of IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Friday, where the two worked out the disagreements between them, according to a joint statement issued by the military and domestic intelligence agency.

“During the conversation, maneuvers were agreed upon to strengthen cooperation between the organizations on behalf of the security of the State of Israel,” the statement said.

Commenting on the development, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said ongoing inter-organizational cooperation is vital for national security. He said that dispute between the organizations was bad for Israel, and praised the reconciliation.

“I meet the officers and soldiers of Military Intelligence and the people of the Shin Bet often – they are the best we have,” Ya’alon said. “They work day and night to bring military and political leaders the best intelligence, while investing thought, creativity and imagination in a complex, challenging, and fast changing reality,” the defense minister said.

“If this is harmed – we will all be harmed. What happened this past week must not repeat itself. The right place to smooth over differences on such critical and covert issues for Israel is in a closed room,” he added.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet, instructing them to settle their differences.

The meeting took place after Gantz sent a letter of complaint to Netanyahu to protest the conduct of the Shin Bet and its director, and warning of a crisis of trust between the two bodies, in an unprecedented display of division within the defense establishment.

The letter followed accounts by Shin Bet members that were aired this week on Channel 2’s Uvda (Fact) investigative program, in which they said that the domestic intelligence agency provided an alert about Hamas’s intentions to launch a war this past summer.

Shin Bet sources have maintained that they provided the alert several months before the outbreak of hostilities in July.

The IDF, as well as Ya’alon, have dismissed the idea that an advance intelligence alert was received in the months that led up to the conflict.

In July, a senior defense source said Gantz had alerted the military that a clash with Hamas might likely start that month.

In the months preceding the 50-day war, the IDF added large forces to the Gaza Division in preparation, according to the source.

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense -Committee knew about the dispute before it was publicized and held several classified meetings on the topic in recent days, calling in relevant officials to testify.

The committee sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday asking him to mediate between the sides to end the conflict, and listing recommendations on how to move forward.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday night, Netanyahu told Gantz and Cohen: “We all have a national responsibility for the security of Israel and we must continue to fully cooperate for the safety of the citizens of Israel.”

Ya’alon – who received a copy of the Gantz letter – has expressed full support for the IDF chief of staff’s position, and expects clarification from Cohen.

Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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