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Israel News

Shin Bet chief term extended a few months, after PM’s new pick blocked

CM 10/04/2021

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Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman’s five-year term was extended over the weekend by a few months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expected new pick for the role was blocked by a combination of factors.Argaman was due to conclude his term in May and The Jerusalem Post and other media have reported extensively about a tight three-way race to succeed him.The three main candidates have been: current deputy Shin Bet chief “R”, the most recent former deputy Shin Bet chief, also known as “R” and Netanyahu’s preference, former senior Shin Bet official and current National Security Council Chief Meir Ben Shabbat.Though Netanyahu prefers Ben Shabbat, who has emerged as one of his closest advisors in recent years, the ongoing political deadlock and transitional government have potentially blocked this appointment from multiple directions.First, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz has veto power over such top appointments.Though Gantz played ball with Netanyahu’s desire to appoint “D” as the next chief of the Mossad in June (that appointment is held up for different reasons), he was never ready to allow Ben Shabbat’s appointment.The Post has exclusively reported that Ben Shabbat has both fans and opponents at the highest level of the Shin Bet, but the opponents’ characterization of Ben Shabbat as too political and close to Netanyahu, is what torpedoed his candidacy before Gantz.

Those who support either of the two deputy chief “R”s note that almost all recent Shin Bet chiefs served as deputy chiefs beforehand.Those supporting Ben Shabbat say he had the equivalent rank of major general within the Shin Bet and that his experience as NSC chief gives him perspectives that even deputy chiefs might not have.Even if Gantz had not blocked Ben Shabbat being appointed, it is expected that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit would have blocked it on the grounds that Netanyahu is currently only a transitional prime minister, with weakened powers.“D”’s appointment as the next Mossad chief was held up by Mandelblit for this reason, even though Gantz approved him and an apolitical senior officials’ vetting committee approved him.It is presumed that Netanyahu also extended Argaman’s term to have a chance to still appoint Ben Shabbat should the prime minister manage to form the next government.In contrast, Mandelblit and Gantz might have approved the appointment of one of the “R”s, at least as acting director, before a new government is formed if it was viewed as necessary to protect state security.In comparing the two “R”s, some sources said the prior deputy chief “R” has a bigger world view when it comes to technology, collection and analysis of intelligence issues.Some also point out that prior deputy chief “R” was involved in major defense situations during the 2014 Gaza war, which current “R” has not quite had to match and which was more substantial than even the 2008-2009 Gaza war, which Ben-Shabbat helped manage.In addition, some say that prior “R” is more beloved, inspires more social cohesion among the rank and file than current “R” and could be a compromise candidate between Netanyahu and the current Shin Bet leadership.But the prior “R” may have burned some bridges with an interview that he gave to Channel 12’s Uvda following the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. He claimed the agency had warned the IDF and Netanyahu that Hamas was ready to fight, but was ignored.
This won him some enemies – including some who hold him responsible for failing to sound the alarm about Hamas loud enough – and may have hurt him with Netanyahu.Also, some say that current “R” may be more charismatic and more of a stand-out talent in operations than prior “R”.Further, they say that current “R” has filled in some of his inexperience with Shin Bet branches beyond the operations side by serving consecutively in the agency’s number two and number three roles. Both of these roles require wide exposure to all Shin Bet branches.Still, critics say he lacks Ben-Shabbat’s strategic acumen.Some believe Argaman will press for the current “R” to succeed him since he was his handpicked deputy and both of them come from deep experience in operations.On the other hand, the final word on who runs the agency is really in the hands of the prime minister.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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