(June 22, 2020 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Monday’s Cabinet meeting by strongly criticizing the leak of recordings from a meeting of the coronavirus Cabinet a day earlier, which were broadcast on Sunday evening by Channel 12 News.
“I want to begin, first of all, with the serious incident of the recording from the coronavirus Cabinet that was broadcast in the media,” said Netanyahu. “I don’t remember such a thing being done in all my years as prime minister. Not from a Cabinet meeting and not from a coronavirus Cabinet like this; a discussion with the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] chief, it is very serious.”
The prime minister called for an investigation into the leak, saying that such a thing could not happen again.
“This cannot pass. I ask all the relevant officials, including the attorney general, to enable a thorough investigation,” said Netanyahu. “We cannot allow this to take root. It must not repeat itself.”
In the recordings, Israel Security Agency head Nadav Argaman can be heard opposing the return of a controversial program to use ISA technology ordinarily reserved for counter-terrorism operations to trace coronavirus carriers and those who had come in contact with them. Instead, Argaman argued for the creation of an alternative civilian effort, with which the ISA could cooperate.
The ISA surveillance program was active for approximately three months, in an effort to minimize the spread of coronavirus in Israel, but was shut down due to a lack of legislation to regulate it.
If the infections spread, and there is no other available solution, then at that point involving the ISA would be the right decision, said Argaman, adding, “I am asking very, very, very strongly opposed to [involving] the Shin Bet at this stage.”
According to Channel 12, during the Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu banged on the table and insisted that the ISA program be renewed.
“The ships are coming at us, one at a time, and we are refusing to believe it,” he said. “Our responsibility is to stop this pandemic. The pandemic is coming back! It’s coming back! Now the question is, how much are we willing to do because of this thing [the virus], which is very quickly coming at us.”
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