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Shin Bet officials threaten to quit if Meir Ben-Shabbat heads agency — report

Netanyahu said considering appointing national security adviser as head of service next year; source tells TV such an appointment would be ‘for personal, not professional reasons’

Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council, speaks at a trilateral meeting of the Israeli, US and Russian national security advisers, in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council, speaks at a trilateral meeting of the Israeli, US and Russian national security advisers, in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Senior officials in the Shin Bet are threatening to quit the agency if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoints his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, as the new director of the agency in six months’ time, according to a television report on Tuesday.

The current head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, is set to end his four-year term in May 2021.

Netanyahu is said to be considering Ben-Shabbat — a former longtime member of the Shin Bet — for the position, according to Kan news.

The speculation has prompted some senior Shin Bet officials to warn they’ll quit if the nomination, which has yet to be confirmed, goes ahead.

“If Prime Minister Netanyahu appoints Meir Ben-Shabbat as the agency head, it would be for personal, not professional reasons,” a source told the broadcaster. “Ben Shabbat is not suited to head the agency on professional grounds. If Ben Shabbat is appointed to the head of the agency — we will quit.”

Ben Shabbat will “seriously harm the agency,” said the official, who was not named but was described as “very senior.”

The agency didn’t respond to a request from Kan for comment.

Ben-Shabbat was appointed the head of the National Security Council in 2017, a position in which he oversaw Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. He is also heavily involved in the government’s pandemic response.

Ben-Shabbat previously served in the Shin Bet since January 1989. His focus was Hamas and the Gaza Strip, directing much of the service’s activities against the terrorist group since the late 1990s. His position as head of the service’s southern district was comparable to that of a military general. Ben-Shabbat personally led the Shin Bet’s efforts in Gaza during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead campaign.

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