Mofaz calls Netanyahu ‘liar’ after PMO leak mix-up

Kadima MK accused of politicizing Knesset defense panel after railing against misquote by Netanyahu’s media staff.

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January 16, 2012 21:09
4 minute read.
Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz

Shaul Mofaz 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a villainous liar on Monday, after a member of the prime minister’s staff misquoted Mofaz while leaking information to the press.

In response, Likud MKs accused Mofaz of using the committee as a platform for his Kadima primary campaign.

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During a meeting of the committee, a spokesman for the prime minister told reporters that Mofaz said IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz did not tell the truth in his reports on the defense budget, a claim that Netanyahu vehemently opposed.

Mofaz’s media adviser, as well as a Knesset-employed spokesman for the committee who is ostensibly neutral in political matters, said that Mofaz said no such thing, but rather pointed out that the IDF does not report its expenses in advance and Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak allowed the defense budget to “get out of control” in 2011.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussions are usually closed to the press and cellphones are not allowed in the committee room when meetings are in session. Often, a staff member of the committee’s guest – in this case, Netanyahu – will leak details to reporters. In addition, Knesset members walking in and out of the meeting regularly talk to journalists sitting outside of the committee room during the proceedings.

A briefing by the Knessetemployed spokesman, which covers the nonconfidential portions of the meeting, is generally considered the most reliable source of information on the committee.



After Mofaz’s spokesman notified him that Arutz 7 (Israel National News) led its website with the headline “Mofaz: The Chief of Staff lied,” the committee chairman cut the meeting short, shouting and pointing at Netanyahu and his chief spokesman, Roni Sofer.

“Your people instructed the media to say things that aren’t true! Make your people tell the truth,” Mofaz yelled. “As far as I’m concerned, this meeting is over. I will not continue. You can leave.”

Netanyahu, taken aback, said he gave no such instruction.

“Calm down, you’re losing your head,” the prime minister told Mofaz.

In fact, Netanyahu and Sofer sat near Mofaz throughout the meeting, and the incorrect quote was leaked by a lowerlevel spokesman who did not consult with his superiors.

Soon after, Mofaz gathered parliamentary reporters to lament the “unprecedented, villainous act callously perpetrated by the prime minister and his staff.”

“The citizens of Israel should know that their prime minister is a liar. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a liar,” he repeated several times. “He is lying to Israel about the economy, lying about diplomacy, and today he is also lying about one of the most sensitive topics – the defense budget.”

Mofaz explained that as a former IDF chief of staff, he takes offense at being accused of saying such things about the current chief of staff. He also said that Gantz is a personal friend, who he trusts and would never accuse of lying.

He asked that the protocols and video recording of the meeting be released to the media, but at press time, Knesset legal staff had yet to determine whether it would be possible to do so.

However, Knesset legal advisor Eyal Inon sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office and Gantz’s office saying that he reviewed the protocol and at no point had Mofaz said that the chief of staff lied.

Netanyahu refused to comment on the matter on-therecord; however, the Likud released a statement slamming Mofaz’s “pathetic performance.”

According to the statement, the Kadima MK’s actions were planned in advance as part of his party leadership campaign, and that Netanyahu himself said he never heard Mofaz accuse Gantz of lying.

Later Monday, in response to an unsuccessful no-confidence motion by Meretz, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that Mofaz’s “use of a committee meeting for a primary and to curse the prime minister are an embarrassment and a disgrace.”

Erdan scoffed at Mofaz’s claim that Netanyahu is a liar, recalling that, in 2006, Mofaz sent a letter to Likud members that the party is his home, and he would never leave it. Days later, Mofaz announced that he was joining Kadima.

“When someone like this expresses an opinion about the prime minister, it should not be taken seriously,” Erdan quipped.

Usually, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is from a coalition party. However, in 2009, Netanyahu preferred to trade with Kadima for the Economics Committee. At the time, the prime minister’s allies warned him that Mofaz would use the committee to criticize him.

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