'Netanyahu Asked Shin Bet Head to Listen to Phones of then-IDF, Mossad Chiefs'

Report by TV show 'Uvda' claims that due to lack of trust in defense officials, PM asked Yoram Cohen to listen in on his colleagues' conversations, but he refused

File photo: Then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (R) and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen at a memorial service for slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, November 2011.
Tomer Appelbaum

>>UPDATE: Netanyahu denies he ordered phone tap on Mossad and army chiefs <<

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Yoram Cohen, the former head of the Shin Bet security service, to listen to the telephone conversations of then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and then-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo sometime in the early months of Cohen's tenure, prominent Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan reported on Thursday on the investigative television show "Uvda." The Prime Minister's Office denied the report, saying: Netanyahu never asked to listen to the chief of staff and the head of the Mossad. This is an utter lie.

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According to the report, Netanyahu asked Cohen to make use of the Shin Bet's capabilities in order to monitor a series of senior officials, including Gantz and Pardo, including through listening to their telephone calls. The program quoted sources in the Defense Ministry who said Cohen was rattled by the request and rejected it, explaining that the Shin Bet is not supposed to take such radical steps toward those at the top of the other security organizations. 

I do not want to believe that in Israel, which is a democratic state, the prime minister is asking the Shin Bet to tap the chief of staff or me, Pardo said in an interview. He added: "Wiretapping is the greatest possible [sign of] lack of trust. I never asked to wiretap any of my employees in the Mossad. Never. It never even crossed my mind. In my view, that's outside the rules of the game. According to Pardo, this illustrates a lack of trust. It's the worst possible thing. If I had known something like that, the right thing for me to have done would have been to stand up and say, this isn't my game.

In an interview with "Uvda," Pardo said that he and Netanyahu met three times before his appointment for talks on the continuum between loyalty and trustworthiness.

I told him: 'I was the subordinate of your brother. Yoni chose me to be next to him more than once, but also the last time. He trusted me faithfully, Pardo said. When asked what Netanyahu said in response, Pardo said: He didn't answer, but he appointed me. According to Pardo, the two discussed everything. I had no problem having an in-depth conversation with him," he said. He never cut me off.

The Prime Minister's Office told "Uvda": The claim that the prime minister asked the head of the Shin Bet to listen in on the chief of staff and the head of the Mossad is completely unfounded. This is a total distortion of systemic efforts that are made from time to time to maintain information security regarding sensitive matters of paramound importance to Israel's security. The decision of what means to use and against who is in the hands of the authorized officials.

The same program reported that Netanyahu ordered the Mossad and the military to prepare for an attack on Iran in 2011. According to the show, Netanyahu told Pardo and Gantz to prepare the military to be able to launch an attack on Iran within 15 days of being given the order to do so.

“It’s not the sort of thing that you do just for practice,” Pardo told the program, adding that there could be two reasons to order preparation for an attack — either to actually attack, or to send a signal to someone. “It’s possible the United States would find out about the order one way or another and would be impelled to take action.