With one week left to elections, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman has not been campaigning – but instead has been trying to walk back a violation of military censorship that he committed over the weekend. In his latest attempt Monday morning, Liberman told Kan News that “nobody told me there was censorship on the matter. Everyone knew about it except the Israelis.”
The “matter” in question was a secret visit earlier in February by the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and IDF Southern Command head Herzi Halevi to Qatar, where they met with the Qatari officials in charge of transferring money to Gaza. The Israeli officials, according to Haaretz, encouraged Qatar to continue supplying money to Gaza, and traveled to Qatar via Oman in the private plane of an Israeli businessman.
That the trip took place was known among politicians and journalists, but respecting military censorship rules which had been put in place on information about the visit, no one mentioned it in public – until Motzoei Shabbos, when Liberman in a Channel 12 interview revealed that the visit took place.
The revelation led to an emergency meeting of top security officials with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and demands by the family of missing IDF soldier Hadar Goldin for an immediate meeting with Netanyahu. “He promised that there would be no arrangements with Hamas until Hadar and the other Israelis were returned home,” the family said in a statement. “The reports about this meeting indicate that once again Israel has missed an opportunity to bring our boys home.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett slammed Liberman Sunday, calling him “an arrogant liar who drives everyone crazy. He is the one that began Israeli contacts with Qatar. What he did was a serious security violation. He committed a crime.”
In response, Liberman gave interviews Sunday night and Monday to numerous media outlets seeking to play down the story. If anyone is “driving the people crazy,” he told Kan News, it was Bennett. “The government is trying to fool the people. Nobody told me this was under censorship. The Qataris knew, the Egyptians knew, Hamas knew, and the only ones who didn’t know were the Israelis. The government is trying to cheat the public,” he added.