PM told UK embassy not to help with Gantz’s trip in any way, including security — TV

Report says Netanyahu instructed ambassador not to assist Shin Bet in making arrangements for the war cabinet minister’s visit to London, but stresses his security won’t be harmed

File - Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File - Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

So incensed was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by war cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s current overseas trip to the US and UK that the Prime Minister’s Office instructed the embassy in London not to assist with any aspect of Gantz’s visit, including matters that relate to his security, Israeli television reported Tuesday.

The Channel 12 news report was constrained by limitations imposed by the military censor, barring it from specifying what exactly was involved. The network said the strictures were put in place “for reasons that are not clear to us.” However, the network later revealed further details after the censorship was apparently eased.

The updated report said that at Netanyahu’s instruction, Israeli Ambassador to Britain Tzipi Hotovely ordered embassy staff not to assist the Shin Bet with making security arrangements for Gantz’s visit, among them logistical matters such as transportation and logging.

In the initial report during the main evening broadcast, Channel 12’s Dana Weiss did not mention the Shin Bet, as she plainly struggled to explain what was going on without breaching censorship.

Along with the “logistical assistance” the network later expanded on, Weiss said the instruction to Hotovely related to assistance in securing unspecified “permissions.” She noted that Gantz is a member of the war cabinet, a former defense minister and chief of staff, and was making the trip at a particularly sensitive time.

The report stressed that Gantz’s security would not be harmed, because Gantz’s own staff and the relevant Israeli entity took care of various unspecified arrangements and coordinated them with the British authorities.

The Foreign Ministry had no comment on the issue, the TV report said. The Prime Minister’s Office denied intervening. Weiss did not report the response of the Shin Bet, saying the military censor would not let her name the relevant entity. In the updated report on its website, the network said the Shin Bet declined to comment.

During the TV broadcast, Channel 12 showed a ticker at the bottom of the screen which stated at one point, “Minister Gantz’s visit to London: PM to the Israeli Embassy: Do not help with the security coordination,” and, at another point, “Minister Gantz’s visit to London: PMO instructed embassy not to help with any aspect.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely arrives for Britain’s Defense Secretary Grant Shapps’ speech on defending the UK and its allies, at Lancaster House, in London, on January 15, 2024. (HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)

Reports in recent days have claimed that Netanyahu bitterly resents Gantz’s current trip to Washington and London, that the minister arranged it without his approval, and that the prime minister similarly told Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog not to assist with Gantz’s visit there.

A separate report Tuesday by the Kan public broadcaster said Netanyahu was livid that his own office ordered the tickets for Gantz’s flights, in light of his opposition to the trip.

According to the report, an examination by Netanyahu’s office found that Gantz’s aides insisted during Shabbat that the premier had signed off on his travel, leading it approve ticket purchases.

The broadcaster said Netanyahu’s confidantes, however, later said the opposite was the case, but when the Prime Minister’s Office sought to cancel the tickets, it decided not to after learning the move would result in a $7,000 fine. Gantz’s business class tickets to Washington and London reportedly cost around $19,000 in total.

After two days of talks with senior US leaders in Washington, Gantz departed Tuesday for London, where he was to meet with UK Foreign Minister David Cameron before returning to Israel on Wednesday night.

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