TEL AVIV (Mar. 22)
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Wednesday the existence of a controversial intelligence report, whose existence Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir earlier appeared to deny.
Yossi Ben-Aharon, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, said such an intelligence study had been submitted to the Cabinet.
But he denied news reports that the study had recommended Israeli negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The intelligence report made no policy recommendations, he stressed.
Shamir, who staunchly opposes talks with the PLO, was asked about the report at a news conference during the Prime Minister’s Conference on Jewish Solidarity With Israel.
“All that was included in this information was a lie,” he told reporters. “We are not getting any advice of this kind from our intelligence people.”
Ministers present at the Inner Cabinet meeting at which the intelligence assessment was presented have expressed surprise at Shamir’s denial of the existence of the document.
Ben-Aharon told Israel Radio Wednesday that all the recommendations reported by the media were “fabrications,” as policy recommendations are not the function of the military intelligence service.
The task of the intelligence service “is to present the political level with an analysis and an intelligence estimate of actions, policies and intentions of what is defined as the enemy,” he said.
MA’ARIV STORY CRITICIZED
Ben-Aharon added, “What we had was a picture of the violence in the territories and the course it has taken, to what extent it is directed by the PLO and to what extent there is a chance of reducing this violence by involving the PLO by one way or another.”
Ben-Aharon also said that reports of the assessment that appeared in a New York newspaper last month were also “totally without foundation.”
The Village Voice published a story Feb. 14 saying that Shamir and Ben-Aharon discounted intelligence reports of PLO moderation, and that Ben-Aharon had accused military intelligence of bias and of contradicting an Israeli law that bans talking with the PLO.
The newspaper attributed its report to intellignece sources.
Dissension over the intelligence report has also lead to a public dispute between British press baron Robert Maxwell, who recently bought a large bloc of shares in the Israeli afternoon newspaper Ma’ariv, and the paper’s editor, Ido Dissenchik.
Maxwell, participating in the news conference at the solidarity conference, denied press reports of the intelligence assessment and said that he planned to tell the Ma’ariv editor he should be “more careful before publishing that kind of rubbish.”
Dissenchik told the Jerusalem Post that he had subsequently spoken to Maxwell and had told him the report was true and that he stood by it.
The editor repeated statements he had made when the Maxwell share purchase was first announced — that the British press investor would have a representative on the Ma’ariv board, but he would have no say in the paper’s editorial policy.