Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz was in hot water with the defense establishment on Sunday for speaking in public about Israeli-Egyptian consultations in connection with the flooding of Hamas tunnels.
Steinitz disclosed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the flooding of several Hamas tunnels linking Egypt to Gaza, partly “due to Israel’s request.” He added that in general, security cooperation with Egypt is “better than ever.”
Overnight Friday, Egypt piped water from the Mediterranean Sea into ten Hamas tunnels, causing their collapse. Egypt views the tunnels as a security threat.
Steinitz’s statement, made at a cultural event in Beersheva, riled Israeli defense officials, who believe it is essential to keep security cooperation with Egypt absolutely confidential. To that end, the Military Censor has been especially rigorous in keeping the matter out of the local media, even to the extent of disallowing foreign media reports.
The reason is to protect Sisi from allegations by Egyptian opposition forces of being a “collaborator” with Israel, which has the potential of turning the public against him.
Steinitz later expressed regret for the “unintended impression” his words caused.
He was not the first official to upset defense officials in this way. Last September, Amos Gilad, senior adviser to Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, revealed that Russian jets have sometimes violated Israeli airspace during bombing missions in Syria. The public was assured, however, that Israeli and Russian defense officials are in close contact on the movements of both their air forces in the region, and are carefully avoiding any confrontation.