Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Emil Salman
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For a week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done nothing to rein in the wave of public statements by government ministers on the Iranian issue. But yesterday, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida suddenly informed Israel's citizens that Netanyahu has asked the Shin Bet security service to open an investigation into leaked reports of the cabinet's deliberations on this issue - and that the two main suspects are former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

Neither Netanyahu nor his many spokesmen denied this report.

Al Jarida cited an Israeli source as saying the motive for the leaks was revenge: Dagan was angry that his tenure as Mossad chief wasn't extended again, and Diskin was angry that he wasn't chosen to replace Dagan as head of the Mossad.

"The two recruited several leading Israeli journalists and leaked information - most of it erroneous - to them in order to cause political damage to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak," the paper quoted the source as saying.

Al Jarida quoted a source in the Prime Minister's Bureau as saying that opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni was also recruited to the media campaign, for the purpose of accusing Netanyahu and Barak of undermining vital national interests. The goal of the campaign, according to the paper, was twofold: to prevent a military strike on Iran and to topple Netanyahu's government.

The report also said that preparations for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities had moved from the planning and discussion stage to that of operational preparations.

"This fact pushed opponents of the operation in the defense establishment to leak the details to the media and thereby thwart the operation," the Israeli source told Al Jarida.

Numerous Israeli media outlets, including Haaretz, asked the Prime Minister's Bureau for a response to the report. But at no point yesterday did Netanyahu's spokesmen issue a denial.

The Prime Minister's Bureau has used Al Jarida in the past as a channel for leaking reports about planned investigations into government leaks, as well as about internal quarrels in the bureau. In May and June of this year, for instance, the paper twice reported that all of Netanyahu's aides had undergone polygraph tests on suspicion of having leaked sensitive information to the media.

Moreover, Al Jarida's reports on these matters have generally proven reliable. One of the leakinvestigations it reported, for instance, ultimately led to the resignation of National Security Adviser Uzi Arad - though Arad to this day denies having been the source of the leak in question.

The latest investigation could be the background to the remarks Dagan made at a conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday in response to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz's statement that he ought to be indicted.

"I'm a criminal who violated field security?" Dagan demanded. "So let them put me on trial. Let them say, 'Dagan broke the law.' I'll bring a good lawyer. I'll say things the finance minister and his friends said about field security, and I have a good memory. ... Those who brought the Iranian problem to center stage are the prime minister and the defense minister. ... If they want to put me on trial, go ahead."

Meanwhile, Barak has been in London this week for a series of meetings with senior British defense officials. On Wednesday, he met with the new British defense secretary, Philip Hammond, and with National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts. Yesterday, he met with Foreign Secretary William Hague. He also met with the heads of Britain's various security and intelligence agencies.

No details of Barak's meetings were released, but a source in Israel's Defense Ministry confirmed that Iran was the main topic of discussion. Other issues that came up in the meetings include Israel's relations with the Palestinians, the implications of the Arab Spring and the successful NATO intervention in Libya.

Today, Barak is set to devote most of his time to interviews with the British media. He is scheduled to return to Israel on Saturday night.

Anshel Pfeffer contributed to this report.