Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin. Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin took the side of Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) in the current flap between Bennett and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon over information that Bennett obtained from the IDF during Operation Protective Edge.

Ya'alon said that the information was obtained improperly and that Bennett used it against the defense establishment's official representatives in Security Cabinet discussions during the war.

Diskin explained on his Facebook page that over the years, Security Cabinet sessions have become events that are under the complete control of the prime minister and defense minister. They are the ones who decide what the agenda will be and even what level of intelligence the ministers will be exposed to.

As long as the discussion is not being held as a prelude to a vote, he explained, the prime minister and defense minister treat the sessions perfunctorily and do not really take the ministers' opinions seriously.

"Cabinet ministers have become extras in a large portion of the discussions,” he elaborated. “Some of them have arrived, more than once, in a state of unpreparedness for the discussions, and I have encountered occasions in which they did not know what the subject of the debate was until they entered the meeting room, even though it had been published in advance.”

"The fact that Cabinet member Bennett decided not to rely on the existing mechanisms for updating and relaying information, showed initiative, went down to the field, learned the data and even challenged the prime minister, defense minister and the rest of the Cabinet members – is praiseworthy in my eyes, certainly so if it was the main reason that the threat of the attack tunnels came up for a serious debate, as a result of which many of them were destroyed.”

Diskin revealed that before and during the previous Gaza operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the subject of the attack tunnels was never brought before the public, and “presumably” was never raised before the Cabinet members either.

He adds that he is therefore inclined to believe Bennett, when he says that if he had not insisted on it, the matter would not have come up, and the prime minister and defense minister would have tried to approve a ceasefire without a ground operation being launched against the tunnels.

Having said all this, Diskin added that officers and soldiers must not leak secret information in an unauthorized way – and those proven to have done so must be punished.

“But no less important that this,” he stressed, “a process must be constructed that will, on the one hand, enable Cabinet members to receive all of the intelligence and information that they need in order to participate effectively in Cabinet debates and votes, and on the other hand – will require Cabinet members to keep the sensitive information they are exposed to secret, and bring sanctions to bear against them if they do not act accordingly.”

Diskin concluded: "Did the prime minister and defense minister really strive for a ceasefire at the outset of the operation, although they knew about the seriousness of the phenomenon of the attack tunnels, and did not bring this to the Cabinet's attention? We will wait patiently for the answer.”

The question was brought up by MK Danny Danon (Likud) as well during the course of the operation, criticism which led Netanyahu to strip him of his status as deputy defense minister. Danon argued Netanyahu was willing to accept a ceasefire while leaving the attack tunnels in place to threaten Israeli citizens.