Shaul Mofaz 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee slammed Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for preventing a Shin Bet
representative and OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi from
testifying on Sunday.
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In an unusual move, Kochavi and the Shin Bet
representative arrived at a meeting of the Subcommittee for Intelligence, Secret
Services, Captives and Missing Soldiers with letters from the defense minister
and the prime minister, respectively, saying that they may not answer the
subcommittee’s inquiries as to what intelligence their agencies had before the
terrorist attack on the Egyptian border last month.
“This is a deliberate attack on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s
capabilities as the parliamentary body that supervises defense matters,”
committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said.
“There is no reason
connected to security not to testify, and this decision was made from other
considerations, which prevent the committee from fulfilling its duty to the
public,” he added. “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will not allow the
developing trend to continue.”
“We did not want to interrogate them,”
“All we wanted was to hear what information they had
before the attack took place.”
Barak rejected Mofaz’s criticism and said
that the officers would present their findings to the committee after the
internal IDF investigations into the attacks were completed.
unfortunate that Mofaz has decided again to turn the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee and its subcommittees into a political tool for his own
personal use,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
intelligence inquiries are first held within the operational units, the
intelligence agencies and are then presented to the chief of General Staff and
Then, they are presented to the Knesset’s
That is how it has always been and that is how it will
Mofaz also called for Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to call
Netanyahu and Barak to the Knesset for a meeting on the matter.
Knesset and its committees are meant to supervise the executive branch of
government – they cannot disrupt this order,” he said.
Rivlin agreed to
hold a meeting “to solve the current crisis.”
“At a time when the
committee chairman and the Prime Minister disagree on defense matters, the
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s limits and the Knesset’s authority to
supervise the Defense Ministry and its functions need to be defined,” Rivlin
MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said that as a former defense
minister and a veteran member of the committee, he does not remember defense
officials ever being prevented from giving the Foreign Affairs and Defense
“This committee is appointed by the Knesset to
handle sensitive and confidential information,” MK Avi Dichter (Kadima), a
former Shin Bet chief, said. “This move is unprecedented. Censorship is
intolerable and against the law.”
Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson said that “we
cannot suspend our criticism” despite a lack of information.
tell the public that we learned, reached conclusions, and are acting, so they
can stay calm,” Hasson explained. “The prime minister and defense minister took
that away from us.”
MK Arye Eldad said that the incident is “serious and
very dangerous – but is not new.
For two years the Defense Ministry has
held back information.”
At the same time, he criticized Mofaz for his
handling of a report on the possible ramifications of the Palestinian statehood
“The report that we discussed last week was confidential, but you
publicized its contents,” Eldad said. “This gave [Netanyahu and Barak] a great
excuse. You lowered the committee’s stature, and allowed them to play this
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said that the committee members should
“practice self-examination in order to prevent a similar situation in the
However, MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said: “It isn’t the
prime minister or defense minister’s privilege to prevent us from receiving
information. This move was political, and not connected to the committee’s