Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported Tuesday that it was Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz who leaked information to the media from a security cabinet meeting in which classified discussions on Iran were held.

According to the report, the Shin Bet security service pinpointed Steinitz as the source of the leak after monitoring his telephone calls.

The report claims that Steinitz leaked the information in order to spark a conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak - to make it seem as though it was Barak who disclosed the classified details.

The Shin Bet vehemently denied the report as baseless. Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen even contacted Steinitz to deny what was reported.

Steinitz's associates responded to the report by saying: “It’s interesting to consider who would be capable of leaking information ostensibly coming from a Shin Bet investigation, and who would have an interest in doing so.”

This is the third time in the last two months that the finance minister has been portrayed as inciting against Barak.

Channel 2 reported last week on a one-on-one conversation between Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the former harshly criticized Barak:

“Be careful of Barak, he’s likely to sting us on the budget,” Steinitz was quoted as saying, and Netanyahu reportedly replied, “You know what he [Barak] did on the diplomatic front? He flew to the United States to fan the dispute between us and [U.S. President Barack] Obama, so as to look like the moderate ‘savior,’ who can bring the two sides to compromise.”

Netanyahu’s office refused to respond to that report, and Barak’s office said: “It’s no secret that during closed cabinet debates, and in public from time to time, Ehud Barak has positions that differ from those of most of his cabinet colleagues, including the prime minister.”

In early September, Steinitz publicly berated Barak in a Channel 2 interview, saying, “Barak already stung twice in the past – [stinging] former Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert and his Labor party colleagues. He’s liable to sting again.”

In response to all these attacks, one of Barak’s close associates, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, called Steinitz, “Netanyahu’s poodle.”

Netanyahu met with Barak on Sunday in Jerusalem and reprimanded him.

Following that conversation, the Defense Minister issued an announcement agreed upon by both sides, which stated that Barak sees eye-to-eye with Netanyahu on the handling of the Iranian nuclear issue and on contacts with the U.S. administration.

The Kuwaiti Al-Jarida was founded in 2007, and in its four years of activity it published several exclusive reports that were based on Israeli sources. Many in the Arab world believe that articles in the newspaper are meant to pass messages from Israel to Syria and Lebanon.

One of the newspaper's exclusive reports, which ostensibly come from Israel's Prime Minister's Office, led to the resignation of Uzi Arad from his position as National Security Adviser.