Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted some of the country’s most senior security officials for a meeting at his office Sunday, but not National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
It is not the first time that far-right nationalist Ben Gvir, whose office includes authority over the police, has been left out of top-level security meetings. Sources told Ynet that Ben Gvir has a habit of making problematic proposals.
The meeting with the prime minister was attended by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet security service chief Ronen Bar, and top generals from the army’s senior staff.
“The security challenges in all theaters, with an emphasis on Iran, were deliberated during the meeting,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
Following extensive media coverage on Ben Gvir’s exclusion from the meeting, Netanyahu’s office denied there was any rift between him and the police minister, while insisting the deliberations were “focused on Iran and did not deal with any internal security issues.”
“Any attempt to create a conflict between the prime minister and the national security minister and to attribute it purportedly to sources close to the prime minister are completely false — and done on purpose,” said the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The prime minister and Minister Ben Gvir will continue to work fully together for the good of every citizen of Israel.”
Reports have repeatedly swirled that Ben Gvir has been uninvited from several high-level meetings over fears that he will leak classified information to the media or somehow otherwise compromise such top-secret information.
Ben Gvir, who is accused by critics of being a populist seeking media attention, has clashed with Gallant over army policy in the West Bank in response to a recent uptick in terror attacks.
An unnamed source close to Netanyahu said Ben Gvir has a tendency to propose measures at security meetings that would complicate matters for Israel on the global stage.
“He comes to meetings and constantly strives for targeted killings, a ban on bringing in workers from the Gaza Strip and strange closures on all kinds of villages and cities in the West Bank,” the source said. “He does not understand that with such a policy the prime minister could not fly anywhere – and certainly not receive receptions around the world.”
An anonymous Likud source said “security meetings in which Itamar Ben Gvir is present look like a child’s game.”
According to Ynet, a number of IDF operations have been kept hidden from Ben Gvir amid fears he would leak details ahead of them being carried out.
There has been a recent increase in security meetings as Israel goes through the High Holiday period which has included, among other measures, a major police operation to deploy thousands of officers at key locations, primarily in Jerusalem to secure events during the month-long period.
Ben Gvir has also clashed with Netanyahu over the former’s demands to limit visitation rights to Palestinian security ministers, despite warnings from top security officials against such a move.
Aside from the internal security concerns, the meeting Sunday came amid US efforts to reach an agreement for normalization with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have made it clear that any such deal would require significant measures towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, which hardline Ben Gvir rejects.