Prime Minister Shimon Peres said this week that he planned to set up a Security Cabinet – but only after first consulting with the justice minister on ways to prevent leaks to the media.
Peres was angered last week when details of sensitive ministerial consultations about the Nov. 25-26 Katyusha rocket attacks launched from Lebanon on northern Israel were widely reported in the media.
Peres said at the time that the leaks could “endanger human lives.”
Since taking office, Peres has waged a war against leaks from the Cabinet, barring ministers from granting interviews after Sunday’s weekly meetings, and no longer allowing journalists to wait outside the Prime Minister’s Office during the meetings.
The Security Cabinet, a smaller forum than the full Cabinet, is convened by the prime minister to discuss matters of state security, particularly issues related to the peace process.
Cabinet members view for inclusion in this inner circle, and negotiations over some of the less prominent Cabinet portfolios have sometimes included promises of membership in the Security Cabinet.
Its members must include the foreign minister and finance minister, but the prime minister can appoint as many as half of the members of the full Cabinet.
During Sunday’s weekly session, the Cabinet approved the formation of 13 ministerial committees to deal with social, political and economic issues.
But the Security Cabinet received the most attention.
The prime minister drew criticism from some Cabinet members when Israel Radio reported over the weekend that he was considering disbanding the Security Cabinet entirely.
Some observers noted that Peres’ efforts to stem leaks could be driven by a different goal: to change the Security Cabinet’s makeup to include more ministers who back his own peace policies.
At Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Peres introduced a new element to the weekly government deliberations: a time limit of five minutes for each minister to speak.