The House Committee held a special meeting on Monday to discuss ”serious leaks of classified documents” from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. House Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) initiated the meeting with the goal of eradicating the phenomenon, this after a sensitive document regarding ”Operation Protective Edge”, which was distributed only among members of the Defense Committee, was leaked to the press.

Kisch said that in addition to jeopardizing state security, the leaking of classified documents also ”severely harms the reputation of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its ability to hold secret meetings.”

”I will fight the leaking phenomenon. It cannot be that there is no procedure which prevents Knesset Members from leaking classified material,” he added. ”We cannot allow this dangerous situation that has been created here. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is the most discreet of the Knesset`s committees, and it is our duty to keep it that way. This meeting is held in order to stop us from continuing to slide down the slippery slope of loss of trust in the Knesset, and due to the fear that state security will be harmed even more.”

House Committee discusses leaking of classified documents from Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; MK Kisch, chairman, warns of ”further harm to state security”

(MK Yoav Kisch, right)

However, MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) said, ”I don`t know what the conclusions will be, but we have an obligation to the bereaved families and to all of Israel`s citizens to find out what happened. It is a bit odd that the [former] chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee decided to disseminate such a document the day before he was appointed minister. This raises the question of whether there was a need to `pay` for the appointment.”

In response, Kisch said the meeting ”is not about this specific incident, but about MKs being exposed to top secret documents while there is no procedure in the Knesset [which prevents them from leaking such documents].”

Eyal Yinon, the Knesset`s legal advisor, addressed the demand to have MKs take polygraph tests if they are suspected of leaking classified information. ”I am well aware of the importance of protecting classified information, as well as of the damage which can be caused to state security. However, I believe that having elected officials take polygraph tests will lead to a host of constitutional and practical problems.”

”Leaking classified material constitutes a crime, and, if necessary, the Attorney General can call for an examination, and he can even file an indictment which can result in the termination of a Knesset Member`s term,” he noted. ”Such incidents (leaking of classified material) are very rare, and therefore I believe there is no need to issue special guidelines for dealing with such cases.”

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the current chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said, ”When classified material is exposed, we can ask for the opening of an investigation, and then the investigators will determine which set of tools they will use, and, in many cases, the polygraph test is not one of those tools. I am not saying that leaking incidents should be ignored, but an investigation should be opened only when the damage is such that we are forced to stop and warn. In my opinion, the current measures of deterrence are working pretty well.”

MK Nava Boker (Likud) said, ”The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is an important and sensitive committee. We must examine ways to solve the leaking problem. We cannot allow the committee to become irrelevant.”

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) said, ”I do not like the approach that because we are elected officials we can do whatever we want and the red lines are unclear. The key word here is the responsibility which rests on our shoulders, and apparently not everyone understands how great it is. It is absurd that [MKs] will be obligated to sign a statement of confidentiality and it is absurd that it is not obvious that information should not be leaked, but if there are even a few cases of leaks, then this is what must be done.”

MK Amir Ohana (Likud) added that ”as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I have no problem signing any document or taking a polygraph test if needed. I don`t see how anyone can object to this. We are talking about people`s fate here, the future of the country. Those who object either have something to hide or are keeping their options open for the future.”

House Committee Chairman Kisch asked Knesset Sergeant-at-Arms Yosef Grif to examine how the issue is being dealt with in other parliaments around the world, with the purpose of introducing a new procedure in the Knesset that would prevent the leaking of classified material. ”The war waged by some MKs against this measure should concern us all,” he said. ”I will continue fighting this phenomenon.”