Bennett unmoved by new PM proposal on security cabinet reform
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Bennett unmoved by new PM proposal on security cabinet reform

Netanyahu announces panel to examine intel-sharing process, after threat to torpedo coalition deal; Jewish Home dismisses move as ‘spin’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Haim Hornstein/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Haim Hornstein/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to cede Friday to a demand by the Jewish Home party for an overhaul of the high-level security cabinet and an improvement in intelligence-sharing among senior ministers. But the party said it was unimpressed by the prime minister’s proposed solution.

The Jewish Home, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is threatening to torpedo a newly inked coalition deal between Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman unless the system is changed. The coalition needs Jewish Home’s eight votes to pass the appointment.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed a committee to recommend ways to update and transfer data to the cabinet ministers, and their preparations for meetings while upholding the security of the information,” said a statement from Netanyahu released Friday.

“The team will be headed by the former chief of the National Security Council, Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, and its members comprise former military secretary Maj. Gen. (res.) Yohanan Locker, and Joseph Ciechanover, who previously served as legal adviser to the defense establishment and to the director general of the Foreign Ministry,” said the announcement.

The team will present its findings within three weeks, according to the statement.

But the Jewish Home dismissed the announcement Friday with accusations of “spin.”

“Neutralizing the cabinet endangers lives in a clear and present manner, and no spin will cover this up,” the party said, according to Channel 10.

Bennett is demanding Netanyahu appoint a military attaché to the cabinet, to provide ministers with real-time security updates, increase fact-finding visits to IDF bases and other military zones, and facilitate easier access to classified information.

Yair Lapid (left) speaking with Naftali Bennett (right) during a plenum session in the Knesset, April 22, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yair Lapid (left) speaking with Naftali Bennett during a plenum session in the Knesset, April 22, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid earlier Friday backed the Jewish Home demand, calling the current management of the security cabinet “unreasonable.”

“Bennett is right,” the former finance minister said in a statement. “As someone who has sat with him in the [security] cabinet, I can attest that the current situation is unreasonable. The [security] cabinet ministers do not receive information that is comprehensive enough,” and it operates “from crisis to crisis,” said Lapid.

Lapid also praised Bennett for making a policy demand rather than jockeying for more senior ministries in the cabinet reshuffle.

“But in this government, the person who presents a cynical list of demands and honors becomes the man with whom everyone wants to work,” he said, referring to Liberman, who is slated to become defense minister. “By contrast, the person who did not ask anything for himself but is merely trying to improve the work of the political leadership is accused of opportunism and is threatened to be fired,” Lapid maintained.

Ministers in the security cabinet tour the West Bank on April 6, 2016 (Courtesy)
Ministers of the security cabinet tour the West Bank on April 6, 2016. (Courtesy)

Netanyahu and Liberman on Wednesday formalized the coalition deal that will bring Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party into the coalition.

The education minister, himself a member of the security cabinet, told Army Radio on Monday that during the 2014 war ministers were not given enough information “to know what was going on and were thus unable to make clear and rational decisions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset, May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“One cannot expect members of the cabinet to bear responsibility for the security of Israel without giving them the necessary tools. Therefore, this is a condition of the entire Jewish Home faction for approving the latest changes in the makeup of the government and cabinet,” he said.

Likud officials previously rejected Bennett’s demand, saying they would not open existing coalition agreements for new discussion. The party also argued that the National Security Council exists precisely to provide ministers with the relevant information.

Tamar Pileggi and Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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