Regev denies doling out popcorn or making light of latest wartime security cabinet spat

Gallant tells Ben Gvir that undergoing Shin Bet interrogations does not make him a military expert; PM tells Amsalem to cut it out after latter accuses Gantz of leaking to press

Transportation Minister Miri Regev arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Transportation Minister Miri Regev on Friday denied having handed out popcorn to fellow lawmakers and made light of a squabble between security cabinet members.

The ordeal unfolded during a Wednesday meeting that featured several spats between some of the cabinet’s more hardline ministers and their more moderate colleagues.

Multiple outlets reported Thursday that Regev had a bag of popcorn out during the clash, and quipped “Oh! Now I’ll take out my popcorn.”

The move did not play well in the media, with one reporter tweeting that the public would not forgive ministers for making light of security cabinet meetings meant for planning the war while tens of thousands of soldiers are risking their lives in Gaza.

Calling the reports of her having done so “fake news” and “evil slander,” a statement from Regev’s office said she “intends to act by legal means and exhaust all her rights against the media channels, journalists, and poison and hate mongers who are defaming her.”

Outlets noted comments from Regev’s own office on Thursday, when it said she had indeed had popcorn at the meeting, citing “a diet.”

One of the arguments between ministers began after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir declared that the IDF should occupy the Gaza border town of Rafah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant interrupted Ben Gvir to ask whether he’s ever been to Rafah, according to the Walla news site — one of several outlets that on Thursday published selectively leaked transcripts from the meeting that took place the day before.

After several seconds of silence, Ben Gvir — who was barred from military service due to his far-right activism as a teenager — responded that he had indeed been to Rafah before taking a swipe of his own at Gallant by declaring that he won’t survive another Likud primary.

Ben Gvir later went after Gallant, asserting that the security establishment that the defense minister continuously defends had for the past year erroneously dismissed his (Ben Gvir’s) calls to assassinate terror leaders in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant shortly before the vote on the so-called reasonableness bill at the Knesset, July 24, 2023. At left is Itamar Ben Gvir. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gallant shot back, “Just because you were questioned by the Shin Bet doesn’t mean you understand intelligence,” according to several Hebrew media sites, which apparently received leaked transcripts of the meeting on Thursday.

The incident came less than one week after a similar meeting ended in a shouting match as hardline ministers and military brass argued over the IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s decision to launch a probe into the army’s failings leading up to October 7.

During Wednesday’s more recent meeting, Likud Minister David Amsalem reportedly took aim at National Unity party head Benny Gantz, accusing him of leaking details of last week’s meeting to the media.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with then-coalition chairman MK David Amsalem during a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Gantz responded that he was not the leaker and would take a polygraph test to prove it.

After Amsalem told Gantz to stop screwing around with him, Netanyahu stood up and told Amsalem to cut it out, Channel 12 reported on Thursday.

Regev continued to harp over the plans for a probe into the army’s failings after leading criticism against Halevi during last week’s meeting.

“You owe me an answer over whether the probe will cover until October 7 or from October 7,” she told IDF head Herzi Halevi, according to Channel 12.

Gallant, who has backed the probe, answered her that he was dealing with it, to which she responded that the defense minister should be sure to bring the decision about the probe to the cabinet for approval, Channel 12 said.

At one point, representatives from the security establishment participating in the meeting got up and left.

Members of the war cabinet meet at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 10, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The sit-down ended at 1:00 a.m. with ministers failing for the third time in a row to discuss a top agenda item regarding plans for who will rule Gaza after the war.

On Sunday, Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu again raised his demand that cabinet members and high-ranking officials attending discussions of national security issues be compelled to undergo lie detector tests, arguing that too many details of government deliberations are being shared with the press.

The prime minister’s comments came on the heels of widespread press coverage of the January 4 security cabinet meeting, ostensibly called to deal with the question of post-war Gaza but which ended in acrimony and recriminations between cabinet members and Halevi.

Leaked comments from the meeting painted a picture of harsh verbal sparring between hard-right lawmakers and Halevi, who had just announced plans for the army to probe its own mistakes leading up to Hamas’s attack on October 7. Ministers appeared unhappy with the very formation of the probe team, seemingly concerned its findings could also reflect badly on them, as well as with the identities of some of the appointees.

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