The Prime Minister's Office has pressed the Foreign Ministry and the Shin Bet security service to provide it with images filmed during the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. The images were captured by internal video cameras in the Foreign Ministry's security command center and feature Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the rescue of Israeli security personnel.
The purpose of the PMO's exceptional request was to distribute the videos to the press. The PMO backed down after both the Shin Bet and the Foreign Ministry strenuously objected.
Netanyahu was in the command center from midnight Friday until early Saturday morning, along with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen and other senior officials. After the Cairo embassy was evacuated Saturday morning, the PMO distributed photos of Netanyahu sitting in the command center throughout the night.
Two different bodies within Netanyahu's bureau asked for the films, said a Foreign Ministry official: The office of Netanyahu's military secretary and the National Information Directorate. Lengthy negotiations regarding the matter have been conducted over the past few days.
"Netanyahu's bureau put on massive pressure to receive the material," said the Foreign Ministry official. "The Prime Minister's Office especially wanted video clips of the conversation between Netanyahu and the security officer Yonatan. Their goal was to show how Netanyahu demonstrated leadership in the command center," said the official.
As the PMO was negotiating to get the images, it was simultaneously negotiating with a television station to provide it with an exclusive story, using the images, to be broadcast this coming Friday night. Later the bureau decided not to grant any individual station exclusivity, but rather to provide the material to all channels.
Lieberman strongly objected to broadcasting the videos, as did the Shin Bet. Lieberman, however, made it clear that it was the Prime Minister's decision. The professional staff in the Foreign Ministry objected, saying the images would embarrass Egypt and increase tensions between the two countries.
The Shin Bet was asked by Netanyahu's office to give its opinion on publishing the material from the command center. The Shin Bet presented a list of objections, focusing on the likely damage caused by the exposure of technological means in the command center, or by the exposure of those present in the command center during the events. The Shin Bet said that if Netanyahu decided to publish the images, they would have to be edited first and much of the material would have to be cut.
In the end, a highly edited version of the films was given to Yoram Cohen so that he could make a decision on the matter. Despite the pressure from the PMO, it seems Netanyahu himself changed his mind yesterday and decided not to release the images - for now.
Officials in Netanyahu's bureau denied they initiated the push for publication and said the television stations had asked for the material. They said that as a result of the Shin Bet's reservations, and the information security problems involved, it was decided not to release the films.
The officials also claimed that they simply inquired about the videos and denied applying any pressure. They also denied any negotiations regarding an exclusive publication deal.
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