Is the appointment of the next IDF Spokesman at risk?

Gil Messing served as a police informant in a Yisrael Beitenu corruption case in 2014.

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May 2, 2019 00:20
4 minute read.
Is the appointment of the next IDF Spokesman at risk?

New IDF Spoksperson Gil Messing will begin his service in a few months. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Less than 72 hours after the Israeli military announced the appointment of Gil Messing as the next IDF Spokesperson, his appointment may already be at risk.

On Monday, the military announced that Messing – who currently serves as head of global corporate communications for Check Point – will take over as IDF spokesman in the coming months from Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, who has served in the position for the last two years.

According to a report in Haaretz, Messing was a police agent that helped to gather evidence in a major corruption case against Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party five years ago.

Messing, who was then a senior executive at the Strauss food company, was said to have met with Amnon Liberman, a media adviser for two of the party’s cabinet ministers who later turned state’s evidence, and Ronen Moshe, a media consultant who is alleged to have bribed Liberman to win contracts from the tourism and agriculture ministries.

“Messing, who was not a suspect in the case himself, presented himself as someone seeking to help his friend in his time of need. But he was actually helping the police obtain incriminating evidence, at their request,” the report in Haaretz said.

While Messing and Moshe were close friends, the upcoming IDF spokesperson and Liberman weren’t “particularly close,” Haaretz said, adding “but Messing nevertheless chose to help him in his time of need” and recorded conversations that he and Moshe had, leading to him being indicted.

According to the report, Messing seemed to try to pressure Moshe into making an incriminating statement as well as trying to get him to confess to giving bribes to other senior officials by saying that Liberman “even tried to kill himself in order to protect the others.”
On Wednesday, the Ynet news site reported that Messing had also secretly recorded several other officials in the three-year-long investigation against the Yisrael Beytenu Party – which is known as Case 242 – including former defense minister Avigdor Liberman.
According to Channel 2 News, Messing said that he acted “because he was a law abiding citizen,” and was not acting as a police informant because he only acted in one case – to help a friend who was “in a state of distress.”

The report added that earlier on Wednesday, the State Prosecutor’s Office asked the court to impose a gag on further details of the case.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement on the matter, saying that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was unaware of the details of the story and that “following the story’s publication, the matter is being arbitrated by the relevant authorities in the law enforcement system.”

“The investigation revealed that Messing had never been suspected of the affair, and that there was no flaw in his conduct in this regard,” the statement added.

Nevertheless, according to two former IDF spokespeople who spoke to The Jerusalem Post, Messing has to explain to Kochavi and the public his full role in the story before he starts his tenure as the military’s spokesman.

Former IDF spokesperson Avi Benayahu told the Post that it’s a “very serious” allegation, and until Messing explains his actions, “he’s going to have a very hard time becoming IDF Spokesperson.”

“I don’t know all the details, but he’s got to give explanations to the chief of staff, who apparently didn’t know about this, and the public,” Benayahu said. “Why did he do this?

Another former IDF spokesperson, Nachman Shai, told the Post that while “as citizens, we must fight crime,” this specific case is more sensitive.

“How do you deal with a man who served as an agent for the police? From a formal perspective, it’s okay, but what’s the full story here? There is a big dilemma here,” Shai said.

“The IDF needs to give a full explanation of the story. That’s what I would expect as the first step. It’s not enough that we judge based on a newspaper report,” Shai said. “I would expect that the public get the entire full story... what exactly he did, what exactly he provided to the police... then we can decide whether what he did is right or not. We can’t do that with what we have right now.”
“If he will be the spokesperson, it needs to be transparent.”

The 35-year-old father of two from Tel Aviv served several roles in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit from 2001 to 2006, from the unit’s international media branch to being Kochavi’s spokesman when he was the commander of the Gaza Division from 2004 to 2006 and during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Messing was released from the military in 2006 and then served in several senior public relations positions, including as the former adviser and spokesperson to Tzipi Livni between 2007-2012, while she was vice prime minister, foreign minister, and leader of the opposition.

His appointment was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister.


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