IDF soldiers stand guard during a demonstration by Palestinians against the closure of the main road in Jabaa area south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said that left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence had "crossed a red line" after an investigation revealed that the organization was potentially collecting classified information on the IDF, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office.
Channel 2 on Thursday aired a special investigative report alleging that the left-wing NGO was gathering intelligence information on the IDF after obtaining undercover footage depicting activists asking soldiers questions pertaining to intelligence issues and operational activities.
The footage was gathered by Ad Khan, a right-wing organization known for monitoring human rights NGOs, who had infiltrated the ranks of Breaking the Silence over the last two years, according to Channel 2.
Shortly after the Channel 2 report aired, Netanyahu said that the group had "crossed a red line" and added security services would be investigating the allegations.
Breaking the Silence is an Non Governmental Organization established by IDF veterans. The stated aim of the organization is to collect the testimonies of soldiers who have served in the West Bank and Gaza, detailing alleged "cases of abuse towards Palestinians" and documenting the conduct of IDF soldiers, according to the group's website.
Reached for comment by Channel 2, Breaking the Silence CEO Yuli Novak denied that he was collecting classified information, adding: "there are several organizations, together with members of the Knesset from the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, who are working to silence whoever tries to criticize the government and the occupation."
In addition to Netanyahu, a number of figures from across the political spectrum came out against the group's alleged activities.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein called for an "investigation to clarify which sensitive information (Breaking the Silence) has in its possession."
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid chairmen Yair Lapid said: "While Israel is fighting terror, Breaking the Silence is taking information and using it against the state." He added that "Israel must do all it can to protect its soldiers, and this organization has no right to exist in a state that is battling daily for the safety of its citizens."
Zionist Union MK Revital Swid said that "Breaking the Silence had lost all of its legitimacy" adding that "it was time to condemn all extremism no matter" what side of the political aisle they were on.
Hours later, Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon said that he had directed the IDF to open an investigation into the allegations.
"Following the article from Channel 2 on the activities of Breaking the Silence, I have directed the IDF to conduct an investigative inquiry into soldiers' release of classified information from their service in the army," Ya'alon wrote on Twitter Friday.
The Military Advocate General, the Information Security Department and Military Police will summon the soldiers to an investigation on Sunday. This came after Ya'alon's instruction to cease IDF cooperation with Breaking the Silence.
The report revealed that in at least one instance where classified information was leaked to Breaking the Silence the NGO had advised a soldier prior to as well as over the course of their military service. "I was familiar with the organization well before my [military] service," the soldier said, "I was familiar with the organization's structure and how it functioned."
In response to the revelations, former head of the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet) Avi Dichter and the former Central Command head Avi Mizrahi criticized the NGO's conduct. "The former soldier's quote regarding her retrieval of information during her military service is extremely serious." Mizrahi asserted, "If there were other similar instances, it is even more serious."
Maariv Online contributed to this report.