Coalition whip David Bitan (Likud) said on Thursday that the Shin Bet security service conducted itself with cowardice in its handling of the recent Temple Mount crisis. In an interview with Army Radio, he added that the Shin Bet frequently assesses security situations in the same manner and failed to produce viable alternatives. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office strongly disagreed.
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Bitan was discussing the Shin Bet's recommendations to remove metal detectors installed at the entrances to the Temple Mount when he asked, "Have you ever heard of the Shin Bet saying that there won't be riots? Or that because there are going to be riots, we should stop? We're used to it. It's a pity because the Shin Bet and the army need to make other recommendations, as well."
The interviewer asked the coalition whip if the Shin Bet are "cowards." Bitan replied, "I'm saying it explicitly – you don't have to interpret me. I'm saying that the Shin Bet, with all their recommendations, want to return home safely. At the end of the day, the problem is theirs."
Bitan made a point of praising the Shin Bet's non-strategic work, saying that they do that in an "excellent" manner. However, he repeated that "in strategic matters, their recommendations are the same."
In response to Bitan's remarks, the Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu "rejects the attacks" on the Shin Bet. It called the security service "one of the best preventive intelligence organizations in the world, which successfully leads the front against terrorism." Addressing their strategic assessments, the PMO said that they were "based on intelligence information, situational assessments and strategic analysis of the various arenas."