(photo credit: REUTERS)
An NGO published a letter on Sunday in which Deputy Attorney-General for Criminal Affairs Eli Abarbanel refused to directly investigate Economy Minister Naftali Bennett for alleged involvement in an illegal leak of classified information during this summer’s Gaza war.
The correspondence, dated December 2 from lawyer Hadar Frenkel on behalf of Abarbanel and revealed for the first time on Sunday, was a response to a September 17 letter by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel demanding a criminal investigation.
The request to investigate Bennett, Frenkel said, was based on uncorroborated news reports adding that the NGO should file a formal police complaint.
It was unclear, given the flippant and broad dismissal of the request, why Abarbanel’s office took around 10 weeks to respond.
At the time, the IDF took disciplinary action against former IDF chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen.
(res.) Avihai Ronski who was suspected of passing on unauthorized and classified information to Bennett during the fighting with Hamas.
Ronski’s access to military activity was removed, but he denied that he had leaked information to Bennett regarding Hamas’s tunnel warfare capabilities and said that, despite the disciplinary measure, he was still serving in the reserves.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he hoped cabinet ministers who had behaved improperly during the war had “learned” from the episode, though he did not name specific ministers.
For his part, Bennett denied all accusations of having illegally received information during Operation Protective Edge and accused Ya’alon of using his close associate Ronski to hurt him politically.
“[Ronski] is a good commander, and this is inappropriate treatment,” Bennett said.
“If [Ya’alon] wants to bash me, he should bash me and leave the IDF alone.”
Bennett recounted visiting soldiers “dozens” of times during Protective Edge and meeting with many commanders, citing this as the source of his strategy to demolish Hamas’s terror tunnels.
“Where do you think I initiated the plan to destroy [Hamas] tunnels? From an astrologist? It’s from being out in the field,” he said.
Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin took Bennett’s side at the time, stating that it was the obligation of ministers in the security cabinet to seek out independent sources of information if they believed the prime minister was withholding important issues from them, such as details regarding the tunnels.
Lahav Harkov and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this story.