Netanyahu Says He Kept Top Ministers in the Dark on UAE Deal So They Wouldn't Leak Details

'They can speak uncontrollably,' the prime minister says of Defense Minister Gantz and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi, stressing 'They’ve only been here for two months'

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Benny Gantz (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu during a government meeting, June 21, 2020.
Benny Gantz (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu during a government meeting, June 21, 2020.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not tell Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about the normaliztion agreement with the United Arab Emirates because he was afraid they would leak the information, the prime minister told the Israel Hayom daily in interview published on Monday.

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“They can speak uncontrollably with people close to them and this information could get out,” said Netanyahu to the Sheldon Adelson-owned free paper, known for its strong support for Netanyahu. “To inform them? I’ve been dealing with it for years. They’ve only been here for two months in all.”

Netanyahu was asked whether he thought the partnership with Gantz would continue for the next three years, as the coalition agreement stipulates. “If they act with the government and not as an internal opposition – then the answer is yes,” he said. “If not, it will fall apart by itself. I hope it won’t fall apart now... We formed the government in order to fight the coronavirus. We will do everything so it won’t split up.”

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, who is also a member of the security cabinet, said in an interview on Kan Bet radio on Monday that he had only heard of the agreement with the UAE "through people, along with the media.”

Hendel, a member of the Derech Eretz faction, said: “I knew about it at the last minute. I received a message from Benny [Gantz] and Gabi [Ashkenazi]. Are you asking it that’s a good thing? It’s not. As a government, it would be better for the information to come a different way.”

Netanyahu is expected to update the members of the security cabinet this week on the details of the agreement with the UAE. Many of the members, especially those from Kahol Lavan, are furious over the way Netanyahu conducted the secret contacts through a channel that bypassed the Foreign Ministry and excluded his partners for what was happening.

Teams of officials from Israel and the UAE began to work on the details of the diplomatic thaw between the two countries on Sunday, in preparation for official talks to be held later in Abu Dhabi. The Israeli delegation, which was supposed to leave as soon as possible, was delayed because of disagreements over the division of authority on the matter between the National Security Council, Mossad and the Foreign Ministry. Haaretz has learned that Foreign Ministry representatives are already examining buildings in Abu Dhabi that could serve as the Israeli embassy there.