Israel security chiefs face off in bitter public spat

2014-11-13 16:40
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Jim Hollander, AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Jim Hollander, AFP)

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Jerusalem - A bitter feud between Israel's armed forces chief and the head of domestic security hit the headlines on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked them for making their dispute public.

Details of the spat were plastered across Israel's main newspapers after Netanyahu's office issued a statement urging chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen to stop washing their dirty laundry in public.

The quarrel between Gantz and Cohen is centred on Israel's preparedness for the 50-day summer war in Gaza.

But it emerged as the Jewish state struggles to control a growing wave of unrest in east Jerusalem which has spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities inside Israel, with the army and the Shin Bet at the forefront of ensuring public security.

At a meeting with the pair on Wednesday, Netanyahu "ordered an immediate halt to publicly dealing with issues that should be resolved between the security services", a statement from his office said.

"We all have a national responsibility for the security of the State of Israel and we must continue to fully cooperate for the security of Israel's citizens", he told them at the meeting, which was also attended by defence minister Moshe Yaalon.

The extent of the dispute was exposed on Monday night in "Uvda", an investigative news programme broadcast on Israel's private Channel 2 television.

In the programme, Shin Bet officials, who normally maintain a high level of discretion, claimed they had warned the army earlier this year that Gaza's Hamas rulers were possibly preparing a "strategic attack" in July, saying the army did not act on the information.

But Gantz was furious, sending an angry letter of complaint to Netanyahu on Wednesday, which was published on Thursday in Israel's top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

In it, he categorically denied the agency had passed on any warning about the summer war, which erupted on 8 July, and warned of the "deep mistrust" which existed between the two bodies.

"I never thought things would reach this stage, but it has to stop now", he wrote.

In a related development, Haaretz newspaper ran a story in which senior police chiefs and officials in the public security ministry accused the Shin Bet of failing to share information about planned attacks and disturbances at the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound and in other areas of annexed east Jerusalem.

Top police officials have urged Netanyahu to pressure the agency into cooperating more fully with the police, the paper said.

The Shin Bet did not comment on either report, but commentators had plenty to say.

"With everything going on in the West Bank and Jerusalem, it would be best for the Shin Bet and the army to put their egos aside and focus on the job at hand", wrote Yoav Limor in the pro-Netanyahu freesheet, Israel HaYom.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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