Security agencies withdraw from briefings led by Ben Gvir over confidentiality concerns

National Security Agency and Shin Bet said to cite unprofessional conduct and concern that sensitive information is being leaked

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends the funeral of Rabbi Yitzhak Zeiger, who was killed in a terror attack near Eli, in Jerusalem, March 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends the funeral of Rabbi Yitzhak Zeiger, who was killed in a terror attack near Eli, in Jerusalem, March 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The National Security Council (NSC) has reportedly decided to stop sending representatives to weekly security briefings held by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir due to flagrant violations of confidentiality protocols and unprofessional conduct.

According to a report late Saturday by Haaretz, the NSC decided to stop participating after Ben Gvir and other members of his National Security Ministry entered the briefings with their cellphones in contravention of regulations that are in place due to the classified nature of the discussions.

One of the members of Ben Gvir’s office went so far as to take a picture of a senior Shin Bet official during the meeting, which could be considered a criminal offense, the report said, adding that officials are concerned that free access to cellphones during the meeting has resulted in sensitive information being leaked to the public.

A conflicting report published by the Hebrew news outlet Ynet, however, claimed that Ben Gvir himself had banned the NSC from participating in future security briefings, specifically those surrounding the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, after a heated confrontation with the security body’s representative.

In recent weeks, Ben Gvir has been at odds with various security agencies over the issue of Ramadan and the efforts being made to limit the security risks that accompany the month — which are expected to be heightened due to the war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

After the ultranationalist minister presented a plan to bar or limit Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Arab Israelis from worshiping at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount during Ramadan, the war cabinet — made up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, as well as several other ministers who serve as observers — decided that it would be the sole body to make decisions regarding policy at the flashpoint site.

Muslim worshipers visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, February 19, 2024. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

The NSC representative reportedly got into a heated argument with Ben Gvir over his plans for Ramadan, during which she was also said to have brought up the issue of people bringing phones into the meetings. According to Ynet, Ben Gvir claimed that the police position was that participants in sensitive briefings were not prohibited from using phones.

As a result of the argument, the NSC was reportedly told that its representative was no longer welcome at the briefings and that it could either find a new person to send going forward or withdraw entirely.

The NSC is not the only body to have been ousted by Ben Gvir in recent weeks, as after the war cabinet decided to sideline the far-right minister, he reportedly blocked Netanyahu’s representative from a police discussion on Ramadan preparations.

The Shin Bet, too, has decided to stop participating in Ben Gvir’s security briefings, Haaretz first reported last week, in part due to the violation of security protocols and in part due to the disrespect it has faced from the national security minister and the people around him.

The Shin Bet was said to have accused Ben Gvir of treating its members with contempt over its concern with preventing settler violence against West Bank Palestinians.

Shin Bet head Ronen Bar at the annual IDF Armored Corps memorial ceremony, marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Latrun on September 27, 2023 (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

With the NSC, the Shin Bet, and the Prime Minister’s Office said to no longer be attending the security briefings, the only participants left are those subordinate to Ben Gvir — the police, the Israel Prison Service, and the Fire and Rescue Services.

The head of the Shin Bet had warned the government in February that restrictions on Muslim worshipers during Ramadan could cause the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza to expand and take on overtones of a religious conflict.

According to the reports at the time, Shin Bet director Ronen Bar warned that imposing restrictions on Arab Israelis would spark an angry backlash and play into the hands of Hamas, which has sought to stir violent Arab unrest inside Israel during the ongoing war in Gaza, now in its fifth month.

Hamas called its mass-murdering October 7 onslaught on southern Israel “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” in an effort to claim religious legitimacy for its atrocities.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site where two biblical temples once stood — and is the third-holiest side in Islam.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims crowd the site for prayers each Ramadan, which starts around March 10 this year. Police will be tasked with determining the cap for Muslim worshipers at the site based strictly on safety concerns, rather than on blanket restrictions.

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