Meretz MK Yossi Sarid is considering publishing classified material regarding the army's use of certain munitions during helicopter attacks on the Nusseirat refugee camp a month ago, in which 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.
According to Sarid, the Israel Defense Forces used special, very powerful munitions with an unusually large radius of impact, which is what caused the large number of Palestinian casualties.
Sarid announced that he would decide whether to reveal the classified information following a conversation today with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, as requested by MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The affair began two weeks ago, when, during a committee meeting with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Sarid asked what ammunition was used by the helicopters during the October 21 attack on Nusseirat. Mofaz refused to answer, saying that he would only give details to the subcommittee on the secret services. A few days later, Steinitz informed Sarid that the answer would indeed be forthcoming at the subcommittee - but refused to allow Sarid to attend the subcommittee meeting.
"How can you prevent an MK from getting an answer?" Sarid challenged Steinitz, saying that if he did not get an answer to his question, he would consider publishing the information he already had. Steinitz warned that if he did so, Sarid could be charged with leaking. Sarid responded that his duty is to provide the public with information about the IDF's failures, and that his recourse was neither a threat nor a leak.
Meanwhile, the IDF chief censor, Ruth Dolev, asked Sarid not to publish the information "until the censor is ready." Sarid, a former member of the Knesset subcommittee, agreed to her request.
On Monday, Steinitz complained to Rivlin that Sarid was threatening to publish sensitive military information. Rivlin summoned a special meeting on the issue with the three members of the subcommittee - Steinitz, MK Haim Ramon (Labor) and MK Ehud Yatom (Likud). They decided that the information would be given to the subcommittee and that Steinitz would then give Sarid the information he sought.
"There are rules of behavior in the Knesset that cannot be broken," Rivlin told Haaretz yesterday. "Imagine that a certain MK asked for certain information and threatened that if he didn't get an answer, he would publish information that reached him another way. Would that be reasonable?"
All the Meretz MKs sent a letter of protest to Rivlin yesterday, complaining that he had stepped beyond the bounds of his authority by summoning Sarid and thus lent a hand to "a dangerous attempt to sabotage the parliamentary work of an MK, whose basic responsibilities include exposing failures and information that the public has the right to know." The Meretz MKs announced they were lining up behind their former chairman. "Instead of summoning MK Sarid for a clarification, you should have made clear to MK Steinitz what a committee chairman's job is," they wrote.
MKs from the right bitterly attacked Sarid. Deputy Education Minister Zvi Hendel (National Union) said that Sarid should be banned from any more sessions of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Sarid is part of a dangerous gang that is causing Israel unprecedented security and political damage," he said. Ethics Committee Chairman Aryeh Eldad, also of National Union, said that "if Sarid publishes the information he has, I would put him on trial. An MK cannot use his immunity to harm state security."
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