Mossad denies Likud MK’s claim that spy chief met with anti-overhaul protest leader

Renegade lawmaker Tally Gotliv says she heard about purported meeting between David Barnea and Shikma Bressler from ‘reliable source’; Mossad calls assertion ‘complete fake news’

Likud MK Tally Gotliv attends a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on September 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldbergl/Flash90)
Likud MK Tally Gotliv attends a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on September 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldbergl/Flash90)

A renegade lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party claimed Tuesday that Mossad chief David Barnea recently met with a leader of the anti-judicial overhaul protest movement, prompting a categorical denial from the spy agency.

Writing on X, MK Tally Gotliv said she “heard” Shikma Bressler had held a sit-down with Barnea, without giving further details, while taking a shot at the protest leader for recently appearing to refer to far-right elements in the government as “Nazis.” Bressler later apologized after being denounced by Netanyahu and other coalition members.

“I also heard that someone rushed to put a gag order on it,” Gotliv added in reference to the purported meeting.

Gotliv — a criminal defense attorney by trade — pointed out that she has parliamentary immunity and therefore was not afraid to violate a purported gag order, and demanded an explanation for the supposed meeting.

“Complete fake news. The head of the Mossad did not meet with Shikma Bressler,” read a terse message circulated by the Prime Minister’s Office in the name of the Mossad.

Following the Mossad statement, Gotliv again posted on social media to note the denial but claimed her report came from a “reliable source.” As of Tuesday night, she had not deleted her original tweet.

This composite photo shows anti-overhaul protest leader Shikma Bressler (L) and Mossad chief David Barnea. (Miriam Alster and Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Since entering the Knesset after elections last November, Gotliv has established a reputation for making incendiary claims, such as earlier this month when she accused the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet of “working for terrorists.” Along with her remarks being a regular source of headaches for Netanyahu, Gotliv was recently responsible for an embarrassing coalition vote loss in parliament after she refused to toe the party line.

The Mossad has denied previous reports linking it to the mass demonstrations against the government’s plans to weaken the judiciary, including US intelligence documents leaked in April purporting to show senior officials in the spy agency helped stir the protests. The intelligence agency at the time dismissed the reports as “completely false and absurd.”

The anti-overhaul protests, now in their 39th week, have drawn hundreds of thousands of people from many segments of Israeli society including academics, business leaders, legal professionals, military and security experts, reservists, and members of the security establishment and the tech sector.

Opponents of the overhaul say the legislative package will undermine Israel’s democracy and rights, and threaten the country’s security, economy and international standing. Its supporters say it will rein in an activist court system and restore power to elected officials.

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