The conduct and remarks of former Defense Minister Ehud Barak are unsurprising, former Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel stated in a special Arutz Sheva interview on Monday night – noting that the leaked recordings about sensitive security issues are part of the frankness prevalent in Israeli culture.
"I smile to myself and ask: why is the public surprised?" he said. "We've been living for many years in a country where politicians use intelligence information for their own agendas."
"Barak is not alone," he added. "He joins a list of politicians who did just that."
Yehezkel presented a difficult example: a series of leaked information during urgent meetings between the government and the security system between 2006 and 2008 over kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
During one of the meetings, the heads of Military Intelligence, the head of the Mossad, and the head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) made clear that any leaks would endanger their sources – and probably endanger lives.
"Obviously, if you harm a source of intelligence, it means that you harm the chance to save lives," he reflected. "As an elected official and a government minister, you understand this better than others."
"The Prime Minister [then, Ehud Olmert – ed.] tried to increase the seriousness of the matter and had us [Cabinet members and others present – ed.] sign confidentiality forms," he recounted. "But before they had completed the text, all of it, word for word, was sprawled on the internet. This was terrible."
Yehezkel explained that damage control could be tricky due to legal red tape. For example, while intelligence members can be forced to undergo polygraph tests to determine if they were the source of the leak, elected officials may not under Israeli law.
"The interpretation of the law is that your understanding as an elected official on how to maintain your position overcomes the need to ensure confidentiality," he lamented. "Therefore, it is impossible to legally check an elected official via polygraph or other interrogation methods."
Practically, he said, "enforcement [of confidentiality] must come from social norms" – which, as he stated previously, openly encourage sharing information.
"You don't see this in other democratic countries," Yehezkel stated. "There is something in the commitment of politicians and public officials which leaves security discussions behind closed doors."
Calling the situation "chaos," Yehezkel urged for change – in order to save lives.
Meanwhile, he also lamented that while Barak's book was previewed by censors, censors do not provide much protection over even sensitive information.
"The censor is doing a professional job," he noted. "The censor said he allowed [Barak] to publish information that, one way or another, was already in the media."
"I'm not surprised that this is the problem, and it's not only Barak," he added. "Barak, in effect, is skirting around enforced laws. To our great sorrow, this is how politicians operate."