Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman has devised a plan for how to meet with senior military officials and receive confidential intelligence information despite Defense Minister Amir Peretz's objections, political sources told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
The cabinet officially approved the creation of the Strategic Affairs Ministry on Sunday, although it left open the definition of its authority. It also authorized funding for the ministry and 20 salaried positions, which also needs Knesset approval.
Peretz has vowed to prevent Lieberman from intruding on his turf, telling Labor Party activists he would block his access to the IDF and "not let him have a foothold in the Defense Ministry."
When Lieberman joined the cabinet a month ago, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor) said, "Only one minister is in charge of responding to the Iranian threat and that's the defense minister." But political sources revealed Sunday that Sneh had already begun cooperating with Lieberman, relaying to him key information about Iran. The sources said Lieberman did not intend to antagonize Peretz or Sneh, but simply work around them.
Although Lieberman's new office will be located in Jerusalem's Malha technological park, the Post's sources said he will spend a significant amount of time at the Prime Minister's Office, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's military secretary, Gadi Shamni, can invite IDF officers for meetings that Lieberman will attend.
The officers would need Peretz's approval to meet with Lieberman if Lieberman summoned them, but as long as Shamni is the host, Lieberman can meet unhindered with IDF brass. The same holds true for intelligence information, which will be transmitted to Lieberman via the Prime Minister's Office, the sources said.
Lieberman is said to be particularly interested in receiving the intelligence collected by Military Intelligence units, such as 8200, which operates advanced technological systems, including listening devices.
A former Foreign Ministry official said it was likely that the ministry would also try to protect its turf by refraining from cooperating with Lieberman.
But a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said he was not concerned that cabinet ministers would refrain from cooperating with Lieberman, because they are required to do so by the coalition agreement. The official said Lieberman could "hold his own."
Lieberman is set to leave for Washington later this week. He will meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and address the prestigious Saban Forum. Upon his return, Lieberman will start building his staff for the ministry.
Aides to Lieberman would not reveal who he intends to hire, but said he wants to employ serious professionals with diplomatic and security backgrounds who will help him build legitimacy in the eyes of potential voters.
Alon Pinkas, formerly Israeli consul-general in New York, confirmed Sunday he was invited to meet with Lieberman when Lieberman returns from the US. Pinkas said he received no indication about the subject of the meeting.
Lieberman is said to be interested in hiring Israel's outgoing ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon. Their friendship goes back to their days working together in the Prime Minister's Office under former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Lieberman was the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office at the time and Ayalon was Netanyahu's deputy foreign policy adviser.
Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.