Netanyahu told Likud MK about UAE deal but left Gantz, Ashkenazi in dark

Ya'alon: Worrisome state run this way; Intel minister: Legitimate to keep it discrete

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz hold discussions after IDF thwarts Hezbollah terror cell infiltration along border with Lebanon (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz hold discussions after IDF thwarts Hezbollah terror cell infiltration along border with Lebanon
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not inform Defense Minister Benny Gantz or Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about his deal with the United Arab Emirates, but The Jerusalem Post discovered on Monday that he did tell the secret to a Likud minister close to him with no role in national security.
A source in Likud revealed that Ophir Akunis knew about the impending deal with the UAE for more than a year. In his current role as regional cooperation minister, Akunis will be involved in preparing and implementing the deal, but a year ago, he was minister of science and technology.
The prime minister did not reveal the deal to Gantz or Ashkenazi, even though they are both former IDF chiefs of staff, because he was afraid they would leak the secret negotiations, Netanyahu said in an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper published on Monday.
"I have been working on this for years, and they have been here for just a couple of months," Netanyahu said. "The rules were that we would keep it discrete, in order to prevent Iran and others from torpedoing it."
When interviewer Amnon Lord asked Netanyahu if he thought Ashkenazi and Gantz would leak the UAE talks to Iran, he replied: "Not to Iran. I did not say they would leak it to Iran. They could have spoken uncarefully to people close to them, and the information could have come out."

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (Blue and White/Derech Eretz) questioned Netanyahu's judgment, saying: "He trusts them with sensitive information in the security cabinet, and I haven't seen the information leak, so I don't think he should be concerned that they would leak something that is of such importance to the state."
Blue and White faction chairman MK Eitan Ginzburg downplayed the snub to his party leaders, saying "It is better to deal with what is good for the state than be offended." But other Blue and White MKs differed.
"For me, entering a unity government comes with genuine commitment," MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh said. "It demands acting in unity, not just technically, but on merit. Issues concerning foreign affairs and security should presumably be brought to the attention of the relevant ministers, assuming we are indeed committed to ensuring and advancing the imperative mission of unity and responsibility."
The heads of the opposition expressed outrage to The Post. Yesh Atid-Telem MK Moshe Ya'alon, who is a former defense minister, said "it is worrisome that the state is run this way."
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said he cannot imagine another world leader keeping his top cabinet colleagues in the dark on anything as substantial as Israel's peace agreement with the UAE.
"It is a farce," he said. "Imagine another country in the world where the prime minister announces that he does not trust his defense minister or foreign minister on key diplomatic issues and says they would leak state secrets. I can't name another country where if that happened, the government would even last five minutes, but apparently, in Israel today, anything is possible.
But Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (Likud) said "it is understandable and legitimate to keep it discrete, especially if the Americans wanted it that way."
Asked in the Israel Hayom interview if he thought his partnership with Gantz could last an entire term, Netanyahu said it could if Gantz and his Blue and White colleagues behaved properly.
"If they do not act like a government within a government or an internal opposition, then the answer is yes [it could last]," Netanyahu said. "If they cannot [behave], the [coalition] will break apart by itself. I hope it won't break apart now. We formed a government for the fight against the coronavirus. We will do everything so it won't break apart."