Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a request by Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to release the transcripts of cabinet deliberations regarding the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman informed Gantz, the leader of the Kahol Lavan party, that he would not exercise his authority to lift the transcripts’ confidentiality classification because their disclosure would deter ministers from speaking freely at cabinet meetings.
When the pandemic erupted last year, the cabinet decided to classify policy deliberations about the coronavirus as confidential, meaning that they would not be made public for the next 30 years. At the beginning of this week, due to disagreements between Kahol Lavan and the prime minister’s Likud party over the handling of the pandemic and the cabinet’s decision to extend tight lockdown restrictions from last Friday to Sunday of this week, Gantz requested the release of the transcripts.
After sound recordings from a cabinet meeting last week were disclosed by media, Gantz wrote, “The minutes of the deliberations of the [entire] cabinet and coronavirus cabinet must be disclosed in full, rather than just biased and serious leaks serving the personal and legal needs of the prime minister.”
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In his response, Braverman expressed concern that disclosure would have a “chilling effect” that could cause “ministers to avoid expressing their positions freely in accordance with their consciences and according to their worldviews if their views and remarks didn’t remain in the meeting room and were leaked to the outside.”
“The balance between the public’s right to know and the public’s interest that the cabinet and coronavirus cabinet discussions be of high quality, to the point, and uninhibited are reflected in the fact that proposed resolutions, agendas and cabinet and coronavirus cabinet resolutions are publicly disclosed while the transcripts remain confidential,” Braverman wrote.
“As usual, Likud is protecting itself rather than protecting the public,” Gantz told Haaretz in response to the decision, adding that he would request a cabinet debate on the issue.