Exposure of intelligence activities harms security: Israel PM
Jerusalem: Over-exposure of intelligence activities can "severely harm" state security, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, in his first reaction on the arrest and death of an Australian-Israeli held in the country under mysterious circumstances.
Netanyahu made the comments in his remarks to his outgoing Cabinet, as the secret case related to the arrest and death of a jailed Australian Jew with Mossad links continued to evoke media frenzy globally.
"At the start of the meeting, I would like to say that I rely completely on the security forces of the State of Israel. They operate with endless dedication and commitment to ensure that we will be able to live in this country," Netanyahu said.
"I also completely rely on the legal authorities in the State of Israel...which are completely independent", Netanyahu told his outgoing Cabinet.
"The over-exposure of security and intelligence activity could harm, sometimes severely, state security," he said.
Dismissing severe criticism in the press globally over the handling of 'Prisoner X' affair, the Israeli Premier noted that "in any discussion, the security interest cannot be made light of, and in the reality in which the State of Israel lives, this must be a main interest".
"We are not like other countries. We are an exemplary democracy and maintain the rights of those under investigation and individual rights no less than any other country. However we are more threatened and face more challenges; therefore, we must maintain proper activity of our security agencies", Netanyahu emphasised.
"Therefore, I ask all of you, let the security forces do their work quietly so that we can continue to live in security and tranquillity in the State of Israel", Netanyahu pleaded.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation in an investigative story last week exposed a closely guarded secret regarding the imprisonment and death of an Australian immigrant, known as 'Prisoner X' till then and later identified as Ben Zygier.
He worked for Israel's espionage agency Mossad, was kept in detention in a highly guarded Israeli prison cell and was later found dead. His death in December, 2010, was declared a suicide by Israeli authorities.
He was in his 30s when he died. The story sparked massive media interest that forced the Israeli administration to remove two-year-old gag order on the case and frenzied criticism of the legal and democratic system in Israel.
Speculations were made in Australia regarding some foul play as the prisoner was said to have committed suicide in a cell equipped with sensitive surveillance system to prevent any such attempt and was specially made for the assassin of former Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin.
The Israeli government, however, maintained a studied silence up until now even though Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon yesterday in a TV programme insisted that Israel abided fully by the law, even in the case of security prisoners.
Zygier, who immigrated to Israel in around 2001 and at some point joined Mossad after serving in Israel Defence Forces, is understood to have been arrested in February 2010, on charges which remain subjected to a tight gag order.
Three months later, Israel's most popular news portal, Ynet, briefly ran a report about a prisoner held in top secret conditions whose identity and alleged crime were not known even to his jailers, but it was quickly taken offline under a gag order.
Zygier was found hanged in his cell in December, 2010, a day after he met a leading attorney who has told the local media that he could see no signs of physical or psychological distress.