Israel's National Security Adviser Ben-Shabbat to Step Down in August

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Meir Ben-Shabbat, in foreground, at a health system appreciation ceremony in June.
Meir Ben-Shabbat, in foreground, at a health system appreciation ceremony in June. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

National security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday that he will be stepping down as of the end of August after four years in the job.

Ben-Shabbat was appointed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett's office said that a replacement for Ben-Shabbat would be chosen shortly. 

The outgoing national security adviser, who was previously a senior official in the Shin Bet security service, had been considered one of Netanyahu's closest associates. He was involved in the efforts to normalize relations with additional Arab countries, as well as Israeli policy to meet the threat posed by Iran.

In addition, Ben-Shabbat's office dealt with matters that the national security team had not previously been involved with, including for example, Ben-Shabbat's involvement in efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a clearly civilian matter.

In the course of his four years on the job, the outgoing national security adviser was accused of using his authority to Netanyahu's political advantage. In 2018, Ben-Shabbat met at Netanyahu's request with a leading rabbinical figure, Rabbi Haim Druckman, in an effort to convince the rabbi to prevent Bennett, who then headed the Habayit Hayehudi party, from breaking up the coalition government at the time. Druckman acceded to the request.

Ben-Shabbat presented Druckman with information on the security situation and told him that the fall of the government would be an irresponsible act. In a letter to his own staff, Ben-Shabbat wrote that "thanks to the decision not to go to elections, our enemies were not given additional reasons to rejoice."

Netanyahu thanked Ben-Shabbat for his service, saying he "assisted in both overt and covert operations for Israel's security and future," as well as his work in helping forge the normalization deals with Gulf Arab states and his service during the coronavirus crisis. 

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