Gov't shuts down Strategic Affairs Ministry

Three months after Lieberman and his party quit the gov't, the entire ministry is retired as well.

Lieberman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Lieberman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Three months after Israel Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman quit his job as strategic affairs minister and pulled his party out of the government, the government decided on Sunday to retire the entire ministry, as well. The Strategic Affairs Ministry was tailor-made to fit Lieberman's specifications and enabled him to join the government in late 2006. But on Sunday the cabinet - in a move widely viewed as the government's admission that this ministry had been set up for political purposes - decided to close it down and redistribute its responsibilities. The Cabinet Secretariat issued a statement saying that "following the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman from the government, it was decided to do away with the ministry." While most of the ministry's responsibilities will return to the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council (NSC), responsibility for the Liaison Bureau (Nativ) will return to the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office. The Liaison Bureau was originally set up in the 1950s to maintain contact with Jews beyond the Iron Curtain and encourage aliya. The NSC will receive an additional NIS 3 million budget, plus approval to hire an additional six employees, as a result of the closure. The role of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, as defined by government spokesmen when Lieberman took over in 2006, was to coordinate security, intelligence and diplomatic initiatives regarding Iran and other strategic threats and report to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In announcing the appointment in October 2006, Olmert said Lieberman would "oversee - on my behalf - the formulation of Israeli policy regarding strategic threats against Israel and will, to this end, coordinate between the various relevant intelligence and security services." Lieberman issued a statement Sunday saying that the closure of the ministry was a "strategic mistake," and that various governmental committees from the Agranat Committee after the Yom Kippur War to the Winograd Committee that followed the Second Lebanon War concluded that one of the critical problems with the country's decision-making process was that there was over-reliance on the Defense Ministry, and "no second opinion." Lieberman said that Olmert, busy with coalition politics, the state budget, and numerous other pressing issues, did not have time to sufficiently analyze and appraise the information he was getting from the various security and governmental agencies, a job that he said had been done by the now defunct ministry.