Benjamin Netanyahu had "warned the ministers... not to leak any information"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here on September 2, has cancelled a security cabinet meeting after details from an initial session, which reportedly concerned the Iranian threat, were leaked to the press. © Baz Ratner - AFP/Pool/File
Benjamin Netanyahu had
Last updated: September 5, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu cancels security meeting over Iran leaks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a security cabinet meeting on Wednesday after details from an initial session, which reportedly concerned the Iranian threat, were leaked to the press.

"A short time after the conclusion of yesterday's meeting, a very serious thing happened: a leak from within the cabinet's discussions," said a statement from his office.

"Yesterday, somebody severely undermined the confidence that Israeli citizens give to this forum. He violated the most basic rules regarding the conduct of security cabinet discussions," he said.

Details about the meeting, at which the 14-member security cabinet was briefed by military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi, Tamir Pardo who heads the Mossad spy service, and Yoram Cohen who runs the Shin Bet internal security, were splashed across the front page of Wednesday's Yediot Aharonot.

Under the headline: "Dispute over Iran between intelligence agencies," the article said the various organisations "presented conflicting positions on Iran."

"There is currently a disagreement about the point at which Israel's ability to damage the Iranian nuclear programme loses its effectiveness," the paper said, indicating it was the first time "in many months" the forum had held an in-depth debate about Iran's nuclear progress.

They were also briefed on a list of crippling sanctions "that have yet to be used on the Iranians, such as a trade embargo and a flight prohibition, which in Israel's opinion could lead to a change."

At the meeting, Netanyahu had "warned the ministers... not to leak any information," the paper said.

Netanyahu's office did not mention Iran nor the Yediot article in the communique announcing the adjournment.

"I have no complaint against the media; they are doing their job. I do have a complaint against whoever violated the most basic trust needed to hold security cabinet discussions on matters about Israel's security, and undermined the ability to hold confidential discussions," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, in a veiled reference to Iran, Defence Minister Ehud Barak insisted that Israel has the capability to act anytime and anywhere it deems necessary.

The army "stands strong and ready to act to guarantee the security of Israel, at anytime and within any geographic (region)," he said at a military ceremony.

Israel and much of the West believe Iran's nuclear activities mask a weapons programme, a charge Tehran denies.

On Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he "cannot imagine that the United States and Europe would allow the Middle East to fall to Iran," as he met visiting Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.

"Time may be running out, but we still need to act now to make non-military pressure as powerful and impressive as possible while showing that if it does not work, there are other options," Peres' office quoted him as saying.

Israel says a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has consistently warned it that all options remain on the table, including a military strike on Tehran's nuclear installations.

In recent weeks, speculation about an imminent Israeli strike has filled the front pages, fed by daily pronouncements from politicians, retired generals and security officials, present and former.

In that context, Israel's air force on Wednesday deployed the Iron Dome missile battery in the area of Tel Aviv, a military spokeswoman said.

"The Iron Dome system is operational and a battery is currently deployed in the area of Tel Aviv as part of a training exercise," she told AFP.

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