Fresh report on Regev alleges she planned to use October 7 attack to snag publicity

Reported conversations between top aides and transportation minister include discussion on how she could step into limelight after war started; Regev calls Channel 13 report ‘lies’

Transportation Minister Miri Regev holds a press conference ahead of Israel's 76th Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on May 8, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev holds a press conference ahead of Israel's 76th Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on May 8, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Continuing its reports claiming Transportation Minister Miri Regev runs her office in a way designed to advance her political goals, Channel 13 on Sunday published communications indicating the Likud minister’s aides planned for her to monopolize the massive October 7 terror attack as a way of boosting her own public standing.

The information, based on official memoranda and internal group chats supplied by Yonatan Yehosef, formerly the chief of the Transportation Ministry’s professional staff, also showed how close advisers to Regev allegedly repeatedly depicted anti-government protesters as insurgents, including mulling the idea that they may be funded by the Hezbollah terror group or the CIA.

Regev has denied the ongoing Channel 13 reports as lies and distortions.

Yehosef said the aides’ remarks are important because the steady stream of comments influences Regev, who then takes these sentiments to the public in her own statements, spreading the ideas.

In the wake of October 7, one aide suggested to Regev that Israelis, including air force pilots, collaborated with Hamas to enable the success of the devastating cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people, the report found.

Last week, Channel 13 broadcast the first part of its investigative report containing allegations that Regev’s office was rife with politicization, systematically giving preferential treatment to local officials countrywide who are Likud power players.

In the follow-up, Channel 13 examined the response by Regev’s office to the Hamas attack, including the ministry’s seemingly sluggish efforts to provide public transportation to ferry reserve soldiers to the war and/or flights from abroad to bring them home.

Screen capture from video of Ofer Malka, 2022. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

On October 7, Regev was in Mexico on a working holiday. As the hours-long Hamas attack unfolded aides contacted Regev and, as the scale of the devastating assault began to emerge, threw out accusations that part of the blame lay with anti-government protesters.

In the months before the attack, Israel was rocked by massive demonstrations against a planned judicial reform. Among those who opposed the measure were military reservists, some of whom — including pilots — threatened they would not show up for duty in protest of the proposed changes to the judiciary.

Many of the communications were held in a chat group containing Regev’s close political advisers.

Dudi Sassi, Regev’s spokesperson, wrote that “someone sold out the country. The Shin Bet will soon find out who.”

Ofer Malka, a top adviser to Regev, accused the Brothers in Arms protest group of being the “clear and immediate reason for the slaughter today.” He also urged Regev to have the government demand the names of pilots who said they would refuse to serve. “They should be tried as traitors.”

Malka further cited “strong” rumors that some Israelis cooperated with Hamas, “including pilots who deliberately didn’t turn up for duty.”

He also called for applying a controversial and defunct IDF procedure that would involve a massive bombardment of Gaza even if it meant killing the hundreds of hostages who terrorists abducted from Israel and took as captives to Gaza during the Hamas attack.

“Bomb [even] with the hostages,” he wrote.

Demonstrators gather during a rally by the families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since October 7, outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2024 (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Malka said that “the hostages and abducted people can be considered as dead” in order to enable a broader military response to the attack. “That is cruel, but any other alternative is several times worse,” he assessed.

Strategist Gal Baysberg agreed, according to messages aired by Channel 13.

Even in the days after the attack, Malka and others continued to level accusations, including one in which he claimed some unspecified entities were “destroying evidence” that might come up in a state investigative committee.

“Correct,” responded Regev, and suggested bringing the matter to the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson.

The attack, which came during a Jewish festival weekend, saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis scramble for public transportation to get to army bases amid a rapid call-up of reserve forces. According to the report, the Transportation Ministry struggled to mobilize additional public bus or rail services to meet the demand, and many reservists had to make their own way to their bases.

Israeli Infantry reservists seen during light arms training in the northern Golan Heights before heading south to the Gaza Strip on October 8, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

A further demand came from Israelis abroad who were seeking to return to the country, including thousands of reservist soldiers. The Transportation Ministry and Foreign Ministry struggled to hammer out a plan to use national carrier El Al for additional inbound flights, in particular on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, when state services, including public transportation, generally do not operate. Though Regev did ask El Al to add flights on Saturdays, according to Yehosef, she didn’t have the authority to order such a move and it was unclear initially who could.

Malka, for his part, in one message pushed back against operating public transportation and flights on Shabbat, raising a concern that even after the war the arrangements would continue, a development that would anger Orthodox voters.

As the war gained momentum, the Brother in Arms protest group opened a control room to help residents of the south who were impacted by the war, including providing them with necessary supplies. Many southern residents were forced to leave their homes due to rocket fire from Gaza or the devastating damage caused by invading terrorists during the Hamas attack.

Malka urged that the police and Shin Bet be summoned to explain to the government “the damage of this activity [by Brothers in Arms] — where does the funding come from, who is behind it, and then decide how to deal with it.”

Regev apparently supported the idea, writing, “Let’s think how, and what.”

The minister also discussed with Malka organizing a major aid operation for the purpose of countering what she saw as publicity operations by leftist groups.

“We need something aggressive against the leftist propaganda,” she wrote.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev speaks to the media in Tel Aviv, January 31, 2024. (Flash90)

Two days after the war started, Sassi, the spokesperson, was suggesting that Regev go on a media blitz and offer daily press briefings: “It will present you as authoritative and a leader. Warm, understanding, professional, as you know how to do. People are thirsty to hear from the leadership.”

“We’ll sit on that today,” Regev responded. “Get to work, prepare messages, proposals, and a work plan.”

However, ministry director-general Moshe Ben-Zaken warned against standing in front of the media at the time, pointing out that it was with good reason that other ministers were not giving media interviews and that to do so “would attach the failure” of October 7 to Regev.

“The minister is a member of the cabinet. What answers exactly will she give” about the hostages and “the failures,” he wrote.

Ben-Zaken painted a picture of “a mother whose daughter was raped, screaming at her [Regev] in a broadcast; what will she say?”

In one message Baysberg told Regev she “can’t ignore the political aspect” and advised that being “too close” to Netanyahu under the circumstances, with all the public anger at the country’s leadership over failures that enabled the attack, “is not sure to help in the future.”

“True, we’ll talk about this,” wrote back Regev.

Avenging Be’eri

Text conversations two weeks after the war showed Regev discussing with her aides that they should be in communication with “activists, branch chiefs” backing her Likud party, rather than the mayors of cities.

Malka was furious when Kibbutz Be’eri residents asked Regev and her entourage not to enter the premises when she toured the south. Hamas terrorists slaughtered over 130 people at the border-area kibbutz, and some residents were taken as hostages.

Malka appeared to suggest deliberate revenge for the Be’eri snub.

According to Channel 13, a printing press in Be’eri is used to print all of the drivers’ licenses issued in Israel.

“Perhaps it is worthwhile launching a new tender if the director of the printshop is the one who pushes away the person who is giving him a living,” Malka wrote in a chat message.

File – Residential homes, severely damaged during Hamas’s October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, line a street in the Olives Neighborhood of Kibbutz Be’eri on January 1, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

The whistle-blower

Yehosef also described “hours” spent in conversations with aides preparing publicity photos of Regev.

Yehosef said he was “breaking all the rules of politics” by talking to the network and was doing so because the “poison machine nearly destroyed Israel.”

Yonatan Yehosef, former chief of Transportation Minister Miri Regev’s professional staff, in a whistleblowing interview to the ‘Makor’ investigative program on Channel 13, which aired May 23, 2024. (Screen capture: Channel 13, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

He acknowledged that he would likely never be able to find work as a political adviser again, but said, “I am willing to pay the price.”

For Yehosef, the breaking point was when the Transportation Ministry set up a refreshment stop on a route used by soldiers to get to the south for the war. Photos and footage from the site were used to promote Regev’s name as having organized the installation. But Yehosef said that while the ministry trumpeted the site for publicity gains, it was the only one it set up, even though reserve soldiers were in motion from areas all across the country.

The TV report also quoted Avi Naor, former head of the National Road Safety Authority, who resigned last year. He complained that “almost nothing” was done to improve road safety under Regev, leading him to step down.

Yehosef also intimated that two major national projects, relocating the Tel Aviv bus station and opening a new airport, have been delayed because Regev is pandering to her voters.

In the latter case, Regev is eager to see a new airport opened in the south, as sought by Dimona Mayor Benny Bitton, one of her supporters, while most authorities want to use a site close to Tel Aviv, the report indicated.

The dispute led to an explosive encounter between Regev and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at a meeting on the matter during which, according to Yehosef, the latter accused Regev of “talking nonsense” and being a “demagogue.” In the meantime, no decision has been made on the airport.

A photo provided by an anti-government activist shows judicial overhaul protesters in Tel Aviv holding up a banner during a weekly rally, September 23, 2023. (Gilad Furst)

Regev and her team’s animosity for anti-government protesters was already evident during the mass rallies of 2023, with Malka proposing in one message that they be labeled as “an underground” movement that is trying to seize power and suggesting that Hezbollah or the CIA could be funding the anti-government protests.

Aides also discussed pushing  for the entire leadership of the police force to be fired over what was perceived as a weak response to the flagship protests in Tel Aviv.

Yehosef said a lot of time was spent on issuing instructions to authorities to take down anti-government banners on roadways.

In the wake of last week’s first part of the Channel 13 report on Regev and her work at the ministry, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara was expected to launch an investigation.

Last week, police said in a statement that they were looking into the Channel 13 allegations. A senior law enforcement official was quoted by Channel 13 as saying that Regev’s alleged conduct “exudes a stench of rot and corruption” and was possibly criminal.

Regev: Lies and distortions

In a statement last week, Regev called the report “a collection of lies, false claims, half-truths and distortion of reality,” slamming Yehosef as someone “who stole documents from the Transportation Ministry” to defame her.

Ben-Zaken, the ministry’s director general, claimed in a response to the report extra that trains and buses were put into service as soon as possible after the October 7 invasion given the maintenance preparations needed and finding enough drivers.

“The director general of the ministry works to promote the interest of the citizens of Israel and does not engage in cheap gossip taken out of context and cooked up in a trending fashion,” the statement added. “The CEO reserves the right to sue you for any defamation, misrepresentation, and distortion of false statements or claims as shown by the query you sent.”

Most Popular
read more: