CORRECTION: When I originally wrote this post, my most trusted Israeli source was not accessible. Several commenters in the thread and others noted that another minister, Gil Erdan, has a name closer to “Iran” than Lieberman’s. They were indeed correct. The minister who leaked was Erdan, not Lieberman. Erdan is a devout Bibi loyalist. Though I hadn’t known him as a leaker on a par with Lieberman or Bibi himself (the consummate leakers) till now, which was why I erroneously put my money on Lieberman as the source.
Amir Oren wrote a dramatic story in Haaretz in which he used obscure code to make some astonishing claims: He said that a cabinet minister leaked the content of a secret military briefing provided to the Israeli security cabinet about what it would take to reoccupy Gaza. At that moment IDF losses had risen, Hamas had made significant strides in defending against Israeli invasion and the political opportunists to Bibi’s right were baying for Gazan blood. Ministers like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman were practically ridiculing Bibi for going soft on Gaza, for not going “all in” and destroying Hamas once and for all. The prime minister, always one to calculate all the angles of any particular political plan (and especially sensitive to outflanking his right-wing rivals), asked the IDF to brief the cabinet about what it would take to retake Gaza.
No doubt, just as the military and intelligence echelons didn’t want to attack Iran, they didn’t want to retake Gaza. They knew it was a swamp and a trap. So they were only to happy to give such a sobering account of what Israel had in store should it take on such a project. But, according to Oren’s story, Bibi wasn’t content merely providing this to his ministers. He wanted the entire nation to know the price that would be paid in blood.
So he engineered a leak. Of course, Bibi’s fingerprints mustn’t be on the leak, so it came from another minister allied with the PM. Here’s how Oren described what he calls “the mole:”
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.
This requires some serious sleuthing and riddle-solving. The country Bibi is “obsessed” with is probably Iran. Which makes the likely identity of the cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman. If this is true, then it makes him a two-faced liar because it was he who was trying to outdo Bennett in calling for Israel to invade and conquer Gaza. It also indicates that despite friction between them, that Bibi and Lieberman retain some sense of alliance and common purpose.
It’s also interesting that Oren uses the term “mole” to describe Lieberman. In a recent post, I noted that he played a key role in negotiating an intelligence collaboration with Russia in which the two countries shared eavesdropping chores against John Kerry. It seems that Lieberman has excellent skills as an intelligence asset and betrayer of Israeli military secrets (along with the prime minister himself).
Oren notes in his article that one of the benefactors of the cabinet leak was the Hamas military wing which was listening to the TV news report that night and knew from it that Israel would not launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza. Both Bibi and Lieberman must’ve calculated that avoiding such a quagmire trumped exposing Israel’s military plans to the enemy.
I’m always amused by the security hawks who shrey about whistleblowers like Anat Kamm or Mordecahi Vanunu who expose state secrets. They damage the security of the state. They endanger our troops. They tell the enemy how to outsmart us. That’s the mantra of the security establishment as it protects its perogatives. But somehow when the figure doing the leaking is a general or a prime minister, then the state somehow relaxes the rules.