Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Dov Alfon on Thursday defended the newspaper's publication of a series of exposes regarding the Israel Defense Forces' lax rules of engagement, after a gag order was lifted on the security incident which had already been reported worldwide.
"Haaretz correspondent Uri Blau exposed over the last two years a series of affairs pertaining to the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces and branches of the defense establishment in the Palestinian territories," said Alfon.
These included "an investigative report in November 2008 which revealed the result of discussions in which participated IDF Chief [Gabi] Ashkenazi - who was then the GOC Central Command - and the heads of the Shin Bet, which essentially gave instruction to carry out activities in violation of an order from the High Court of Justice," said Alfon.
"All of the articles which were published in Haaretz were sent to the censor and received its full permission for publication," said Alfon.
"In September of 2009, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau was summoned to the offices of the Shin Bet and was told to hand over the documents on which he based the articles.
"Following this incident, a lawyer appointed for Haaretz and Uri Blau began a dialogue with the Shin Bet's legal adviser regarding the return of the documents. The dialogue was meant to guarantee the confidentiality of the reporter's sources and freedom of action, without harming Israel's security.
"On September 15, 2009, these discussions led to an agreement under which Uri Blau transferred to the Shin Bet dozens of documents that were in his possession, and in exchange the Shin Bet committed to refrain from investigating the reporter regarding his journalistic sources, refrain from investigating the reporter as a suspect, and refrain from using the documents as evidence in legal proceedings against the person responsible for leaking the information.
"Once all the conditions were agreed upon and the documents were transferred, the Shin Bet requested Uri Blau's personal computer. Haaretz agreed, and the computer was destroyed.
"A short time later, the Shin Bet arrested Anat Kam, a former soldier in the IDF Central Command, on suspicion that she was Uri Blau's source. In January 2010, the Shin Bet informed Blau's lawyer, Mibi Mozer, that his client was wanted for investigation. Mozer said that the demand contradicted the conditions of the agreement and that he would advise Blau not to comply.
"From that point on, the Shin Bet refused to fulfill the conditions of the agreement it had signed. The Shin Bet also rejected Mozar's proposal to draft another agreement that would highlight the Shin Bet's goal of protecting Israel's security, while still preserving the conditions of the former agreement.
"Haaretz regrets the sudden change in the Shin Bet's position and its consequences, which have resulted in threats and heavy pressure on a reporter who was just doing his job."
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