Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu late Thursday weighed in on the latest political scandal to grip Israel by saying that far-left group Breaking the Silence needed to be investigated, after a report on Channel Two Thursday night showed that the group was surreptitiously gathering information about IDF soldiers who were engaged in top-secret missions.
“Breaking the Silence has crossed a red line,” said Netanyahu. “We have opened an investigation into their practices to determine their legality.”
According to the report, the far left group recruited IDF soldiers who served in sensitive units in order to gather information that could be used to portray Israel’s activities in Judea and Samaria in a negative light. The group also interviewed soldiers in these units and gathered information about sensitive operations, and used that information to defame the army.
The information sought by the group was very specific, and related to the locations of unit activities, how many soldiers were involved, specific methods of dealing with various security issues, and more. In footage shot surreptitiously, Ron Zeidel, the head of data gathering in the group, responded to queries by interview subjects as to why they needed seemingly irrelevant information by saying that “things that seem irrelevant to you may not be … we need to know these things, it’s part of our professional approach to the issues.”
The footage, which was surreptitiously filmed by right-wing group Ad Kan, showed Zeidel and another group member, Alon Sa’ar, discussing the location of terror tunnels in the Gaza border area, and how IDF soldiers were dealing with the threat – information that is highly classified.
MKs and ministers on the right slammed the group and demanded that it be outlawed. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that as the minister in charge of Israel’s justice system, “I will ensure that Israel’s legal authorities will study this group’s actions closely, and examine the criminal implications of this activity, if there are any. I find it very concerning that a private group put itself in charge of gathering sensitive information about IDF activities. Anyone who sees this report will realize that that there was an intention to harm the state, it seems to me.”
Opposition figures also slammed the group. Zionist Camp whip Eitan Cabel said that the group had “crossed a red line. The report made some serious charges and it appears that Breaking the Silence has crossed over from legitimate criticism to activities that can harm the state.” Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid said that the group “is attempting to upend the legitimate activities of the state in defending itself and is causing damage at home and internationally, especially given that the country is undergoing a terror wave. Any group that acts in this way has no right to continue existing.”
In a statement, Breaking the Silence dismissed the criticism, saying that it did not engage in the activities portrayed in the footage. “This is the work of groups on the right, along with Likud MKs, who seek to silence the legitimate criticism of the government and the occupation. We follow the rules of the IDF censor, the one group that is empowered to determine what may be revealed and what may not.”