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In the Name of Security

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Israel's ex-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrives to deliver a media statement following his party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem November 14, 2018.
Israel's ex-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrives to deliver a media statement following his party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem November 14, 2018.Credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS

In the name of security, the defense minister resigned, and in the name of the position of defense minister, the education minister almost resigned, before backtracking — in the name of security. None of the parties to this dirty prank cared about security. They use security the way Scientologists use self-improvement slogans, as a marketing trick, an opiate of the masses.

If we are indeed in “one of the most complex periods for Israeli security,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it, the country should have been shaken to its core, because the previous defense minister didn’t hear about it, nor did any senior defense officials. Even Education Minister Naftali Bennett was less than persuasive: “The situation today is no more dangerous than it was a few months ago,” he said, “when the prime minister acted to bring down his government for political reasons, over the [new public broadcasting] corporation.”

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This is a bluff. The only person who bought it was Rabbi Haim Drukman. The Israel Television News Company reported Monday that the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, was sent to Drukman, with whom he shared defense secrets in order to persuade him to pressure Bennett to stay in the government. Instead of resigning immediately, Ben-Shabbat became Netanyahu’s errand boy to the religious Zionist community. Drukman was persuaded that this “period” is a sensitive one. Does he know more about Israel’s security situation than a minister in the inner cabinet? It’s hard to know, but it’s clearly that in this drama, security is only a supporting role.

Security doesn’t interest this government. The deliberations of the inner cabinet are a show. The first to admit this are its members. This is an ongoing failing. The deliberations in the previous government over Operation Protective Edge, in 2014, were described by Roni Bart, then a senior member of the NSC, as “a set of monologues.” “I never heard a cabinet minister say, ‘Please show us some alternatives,’” he said. Only the media asks for alternatives. There’s no point expecting anything from the inner cabinet, but it’s nauseating to see the NSC being dragged into the mire. Netanyahu has been toying with this important body for years now. We’ve heard about the heads of the NSC who believe their role is “provide quiet” to the prime minister, about deliberations that are “negligence squared” and about Netanyahu’s former nominee to head the NSC, Avriel Bar-Yosef, one of the suspects in the submarines affair whose indictment the police have recommend. Another security affair that bores them.

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“The submarines affair has gone into the deep,” said Netanyahu, whose confidants have been accused of corruption. In a government that cared about security, the inner cabinet would not have ignored bid-rigging amounting to billions by close associates, in concert with bending decisions affecting national security. A government that cared about security would have demanded an end to the prime minister’s direct involvement in the issue. It would also have demanded to know what was being done to guarantee that in the future, tens of millions of state funds will not go to machers and confidants. None of this happened.

David Shimron came up with the idea of appointing Avigdor Lieberman defense minister, and it was Lieberman who approved the purchase of three submarines from Germany. The deal is still on the table. Netanyahu didn’t even bother to distance himself from Shimron and Isaac Molho. In any other country, this would be cause to dissolve the government. In Israel, Netanyahu preaches to the public about security.

No government has ever prostituted Israel’s security like this. Netanyahu wants to conceal understandings with Hamas? Security. Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wants to conceal his ministry’s budget? Security. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz doesn’t want to talk about transportation? Security. And it will continue, as long as the public is willing to swallow it. Netanyahu isn’t a magician, he has a gullible audience.

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