Netanyahu Blasts Steinitz for Public Criticism of Security Establishment

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Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Yuval Steinitz, right, conferring with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastised Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday for his recent criticism of Israel’s security establishment, after Steinitz said the Defense Ministry is pulling “tricks” that have no place in any democratic land.

Netanyahu addressed Steinitz during a Likud ministers’ meeting, saying, “Why are you getting involved in the defense budget? That’s not your business. It’s between me, the Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry. These are two very important issues, economics and security, and no minister will get involved in them.”

Steinitz responded that he hadn’t meant to cause offense. “To call the defense minister and the chief of staff manipulators is not offensive?” Netanyahu asked. “I ask that you stop with the personal attacks.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also responded to Steinitz’s remarks. “Manipulator is not a bland statement to make against a defense minister and a chief of staff. I’m not fond of these outrageous personal attacks coming from all directions, and they must stop. It makes it impossible to deal with repeated attacks on the army.”

Steinitz commented on the controversy surrounding the defense budget at an event in Be’er Sheva on Saturday. “There is apparently a real crisis surrounding the Israel Defense Forces’ budget, and cuts need to be made,” Steinitz said. “On the other hand, some of the tricks being used by the Defense Ministry are unacceptable in a democratic country. They cut back in one area that influences public opinion, but not others that could save more. Things like these are done to influence the budget, but sometimes they exceed the boundaries of what should be allowed in a democratic country.”

According to Steinitz, it must be ensured that high-ranking IDF officials do not get involved in political matters. “Even if the decisions don’t find favor with the army, they can’t use manipulations … we are a country with great appreciation for military officers, but we must not let the military security crowd get carried away.”

Former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who was also present at the event in Be’er Sheva, spoke after Steinitz, and said that “this discussion belittles both the subject and those whom it involves. We must remember that the army is subordinate to the government. The chief of staff cannot be part of the political battles.”

Associates of the defense minister responded to Steinitz’s remarks by attacking him personally. One associate said, “Not a weekend goes by without Steinitz appearing at some event. Our sympathy to anyone who is forced to listen to him speak. As we recall, Steinitz begged to be defense minister, but that would have been a joke. In the meantime, we suggest he first examine the unbelievable number of times he went abroad before he preaches to others about frugality.”

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