Knesset: Minister Barlev reveals classified information during debate

On Wednesday, outgoing Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev revealed classified information about police policy during a live debate in the Knesset.

Barlev was participating in a panel discussion on legislation that would have given his successor, far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, broad powers over the police.

This text, requested by Ben Gvir, will include a clause stating that the police commissioner is subject to the orders of the minister and that only the latter has the right to determine the “policies and general principles” of the police.

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“The minister’s instruction was not to throw stun grenades at the Temple Mount, at least without the express permission of the police regional commander,” Barlev said, reading the report of a meeting organized last year. The March of Flags organized a demonstration organized by right-wing activists in Jerusalem.

During his speech, the legal adviser tried to object by pointing out to the minister that he should not read such a document in a public forum, but Barlev continued to read it.

“The situation in Jerusalem and the country as a whole is extremely unstable, and therefore we must not use means that can kill Israeli citizens and residents of Jerusalem. Accordingly, only ‘alpha’ means may be used,” Barlev continued, apparently referring to non-lethal weapons.

Palestinians fight with Israeli police outside the Tomb of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Barlev apparently wanted to show Ben Gwira the importance of making policy in consultation with police officials and only after taking into account a number of considerations and factors.

Barlev noted that this reading is necessary to counter “Ben Gvir’s inflated claims that demonstrate his lack of understanding of what politics is and what politics is.”

The outgoing minister added that he had no problem reading the classified document because it was “a report written by me”.

An opinion not shared by everyone. Police legal adviser Elazar Kahana said Ben Gvir’s proposed bill “does not justify the release of this information,” adding that he was “concerned.”

“So be it,” replied Barlev.

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai argue during a committee meeting in the Knesset on December 14, 2022. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli police commissioner Kobi Shabtai demanded the removal of video footage that matches Barlev’s speech. Ben Gvir, for his part, condemned Barlev for “divulging state secrets for major political purposes”.

Other police officials said the intervention “did no harm” but criticized Barlev for revealing police procedures that should be kept secret.

“Barlev was able to share information here that we don’t want to share with the public. The reality is that you don’t disclose confidential information. The instructions on what is allowed and what is not allowed to be disclosed in the secret document are clear,” the police official, who did not wish to be named, told the Ynet website.

“There was no damage. Public riot control tools are well known. But still, it’s better to keep quiet about the police’s modus operandi, especially when it comes to the Temple Mount,” he said.

Ben Gvir, who called for legislative changes as part of a coalition deal between Likud and its far-right Otzma Yehudit faction, said the debate resulted in the minister’s inability to make real changes to the law as drafted. to increase the operational efficiency of law enforcement agencies.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir (left) and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai attend a Knesset Regulation Committee meeting on December 14, 2022 in Jerusalem. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Responding to claims made by Ben Gvir during a heated debate in parliament, Shabtai said he was not opposed to the change in principle, but said the legislation would have “dramatic consequences” for police operations and that it should be carefully scrutinized beforehand.

Shabtai said the proposed bill failed to clearly explain the problems with the law as it stands today and why the proposed changes are absolutely necessary.

“I have worked as a police commissioner with two ministers and I admit that I have never encountered a situation that could describe the problem,” the police commissioner commented.

Barlev said Tuesday that the proposed bill, if passed, would “destroy the police.”

Currently, the police commissioner determines the policy in consultation with the minister. It looks like Ben Gvir’s proposed law would give far-right activists and convicts far-reaching control over the police — the very same cops he has long argued against.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this article.

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