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Israel PM sought espionage over Mossad, military heads? Controversy breaks out

By Shubham

In April, Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had proudly claimed that his country had brought out secret documents from Iran showing Tehran's stealthily developing nuclear weapons violating the 2015 nuclear deal. He even displayed massive documents in a slideshow to show Iran's other face to the world.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Now, reports have come out that Netanyahu had asked Israel's internal security service Shin Bet to spy on the director Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, and also the country's military. Israel's officials have denied the reports, reported IntelNews.

The denials came in the wake of allegations that will be made public on June 7, Thursday, when the latest episode of investigative news programme 'Uvda' (Hebrew for fact) will be telecast on Israel's Channel 12 television channel, the report added.

The allegations have been that Netanyahu sought that the personal phones of senior Israeli officials, including those of Mossad and military heads, be wiretapped.

According to IntelNews, the investigative news programme said on May 31 that the "unprecedented" request has its origin in a "major secret programme" which was launched by the government of Israel in 2012. The programme needed a major transformation in Israel's intelligence budget, staffing as well as resources, it said.

"Although numerous individuals from nearly every facet of the Israeli intelligence community had been briefed on the project, the Israeli prime minister was concerned about leaks to the media. He therefore kept his cabinet in the dark about the program, and did not consult with the Knesset, or even the members of the Knesset's Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services, which is required by law to be kept fully informed about Israeli intelligence operations," the IntelNews report added.

According to the report, Uvda also alleged in 2013 that the Israeli prime minister had in 2013 called an extraordinary meeting involving senior officials and it saw the presence of the then chief of Shin Bet, attorney general and others. Netanyahu approached Shin Bet's chief Yora Cohen and urged him to "monitor the partners of the secret project", the IntelNews cited the Uvda as reporting.

He allegedly clarified that the directors of the military and Mossad should have their phones under surveillance to see unauthorised leaks to the media. The names of the then chief of Israel Defence Forces Benjamin Gantz and Mossad, Tamir Pardo - both of whom were comparatively new in their posts -- also came up in the meeting, the report added.

But Netanyahu's request ultimately fell on deaf ears after Cohen took his proposal to senior officials of the defence ministry, Uvda reported, as per IntelNews. "They were shocked ad rejected it," Uvda said.

On Sunday, June 3, Cohen denied the entire episode and said the "reports in the media" about the PM's move as "untrue", the IntelNews report said, also adding that the office of the prime minister too called it "utterly baseless".

In a statement, the prime minister's office said Uvda's charges distorted "systematic efforts" that are made periodically to protect sensitive information regarding Israel's security, the IntelNews report said.

Also on Sunday, PM Netanyahu slammed the remarks made by Pardo on the same programme that Mossad is "basically a crime syndicate with a license".

Netanyahu felt the comment was damaging for Mossad's reputation and saluted Mossad as a "superb organisation" that did the "sacred work" in the fight against terror and other threats against the Israeli state, a Ynetnews report said.

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