Mohammed Deif’s Mole in Jerusalem

Recent reports on the dangers of re-occupying Gaza were based on confidential information that originated from Netanyahu's inner cabinet.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Ministers participate in a cabinet meeting on Operation Protective Edge, Thursday July 31, 2014.
Ministers participate in a cabinet meeting on Operation Protective Edge, Thursday July 31, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

Mohammed Deif, Gaza burrower-in-chief, has recently enjoyed the services of an anonymous mole, who tunneled all the way to the heart of the Netanyahu government’s decision-making body, the inner cabinet.

On August 5, at the height of Operation Protective Edge, Israel Channel 2 news broadcast a sensational piece on cabinet discussions still in progress. Political correspondent Udi Segal described a presentation given to the cabinet ministers by high-ranking Israel Defense Forces officers, meant to illustrate the high cost of reoccupying the Gaza Strip, in lives, money and Israel’s diplomatic relations. The officers did well in presenting their professional opinion on the difficulties they would encounter if asked to send troops to reconquer Gaza. Segal and his channel did well in sharing these details with the Israeli public, including the hundreds of soldiers who might die in the operation and the millions of people who worried about the welfare of their loved ones.

The problem is that Segal’s scoop was Deif’s intelligence. Segal provided Hamas with valuable information about possible Israeli courses of action and the power dynamics behind the state’s decision-making that might allow Hamas to harden its position in the cease-fire negotiations. Had such information come from the left, it would definitely have been called a knife in the backs of IDF soldiers. But because it came from the right, the leak was accepted.

The presentation on reconquering the Gaza Strip caused the Chief Military Censor, Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin-Gil, to squirm in her seat. The former intelligence officer knows full well how such a news piece is used by the other side: It’s taken at face value and used to plan courses of action, as if it were transmitted by a double agent inside the cabinet. Vaknin-Gil complained to both defense and legal officials about the severe damage she believed this particular mole had caused.

Her complaints were meant as a warning to the prime minister and the attorney general. Each has different powers and responsibilities, but both are sworn to uphold the law and to protect national security. In effect, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yehuda Weinstein share an additional goal — to preserve and protect Netanyahu’s government, even from itself.

Israel Police investigators would likely be able to identify the mole who smuggled the presentation out of the cabinet meeting in one short day’s work of interviewing attendees, including Weinstein. One branch of the defense establishment suspects that the mole’s last name rhymes with the name of a certain country with which Netanyahu is obsessed. The motive is clear, as is the modus operandi — the use of confidential information during a military or a political operation, even before Netanyahu became prime minister. His cabinet ministers come and go, as do his advisors and spokesmen, but the phenomenon continues and the mole is alive and well. Sometimes it flies to Washington and back, on the familiar route of embassy-Congress-Israeli “foreign news,” though sometimes it chooses the fast route and simply briefs Channel 2.

Weinstein is a proud “securitist,” though he takes it with a grain of salt. It’s possible that he’s waiting for a Supreme Court petition against his rival. A talk with the IDF General Staff in which secrets were divulged in 2009 is certainly suspect. Last year, during the Ben Zygier affair, he stated that “the public’s right to know does not trump the public’s right to live in safety, which was trampled by the publication of data that could harm national security. This cannot be understood or forgiven.” This, of course, is a warning to the media, and not, heaven forbid, a warning to the mole in the cabinet, and especially not if that mole would lead investigators too close to Netanyahu and threaten to bring down his government.

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