(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi canceled the panel’s meeting with Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Chief Yoram Cohen, because of repeated leaks to the press from classified meetings.
Instead, Cohen will address the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services, which has fewer members and only holds confidential meetings, on March 20.
Hanegbi informed committee members and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of the change in a letter he wrote Monday, in which he cited two meetings of the full panel in February – one with Ambassador to Russia Zvi Hefetz and another with Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen.
Herzl Halevi – that were closed to the press, but details of which were leaked to the media “without authorization or permission.”
“I take this phenomenon seriously,” Hanegbi wrote. “It harms first and foremost the committee’s guests’ ability to share with its members all of the information necessary to ensure appropriate and close parliamentary oversight.”
Hanegbi also said he plans to ask Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon for permission to administer polygraph tests to the committee’s members to find out who leaked the information.
Similar proposals in the past were thwarted. In 1999, then Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Uzi Landau vowed to make member MKs undergo a polygraph test when there are leaks, but it never happened.
In 2013, after portions of a Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services report on Ben Zygier, an alleged Israeli spy who was imprisoned and reportedly hanged himself, were leaked to the press, then-committee chairman Avigdor Liberman demanded MKs take lie detector tests, but Yinon said that would be a violation of legislators’ parliamentary immunity.