In yet another sign that broader war between Israel, Syria, and Iran may be on the horizon Israel’s Channel 10 has revealed in an exclusive broadcast that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently ordered all national security cabinet meetings to be held in a secure underground bunker in Jerusalem.
The National Security Cabinet (NSC), also known as the “inner cabinet,” is akin to the US National Security Council and convenes regularly under the authority of the prime minister in the Prime Minister’s building in Jerusalem. However, according to Channel 10’s Barak Ravid, who broke the story, Netanyahu made the decision out of fear of leaks related to “sensitive discussions on Syria and Iran.”
The underground secure Jerusalem bunker normally hosts the National Crisis Management Center, responsible for emergency planning and response during times of war or national crises.
1 I broke this story today on @news10: PM Netanyahu decided to move all security cabinet meetings from the PM office to an underground secure bunker in Jerusalem which hosts the national crisis management center
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) May 22, 2018
Thus far, according to Ravid, “two security cabinet meetings have been already held in the secure bunker and according to the schedules of several ministers.” Sources within the cabinet speaking under condition of anonymity to Channel 10 revealed that, “Netanyahu’s moved the security cabinet meetings to the bunker because of the fear of leaks from sensitive discussions on Syria and Iran.”
It appears the underground bunker location will become the semi-permanent meeting place, as Ravid further reports that “the next four security cabinet meeting are also planned to take place in the sensitive facility.”
Israels YNet news has described the bunker as costing “hundreds of millions of shekels” and set up “to enable the government to run the country in times of emergency,” while Arutz Sheva national news has described cabinet meetings as taking place in a soundproofed room.
While it’s unclear if significant security leaks on Israeli war planning have already occurred, or if Netanyahu is merely taking extreme precautions, the original Channel 10 report confirmed the move is “an attempt to prevent leaks.”
According to Israel Channel 10’s reporting, further measures are being taken within the bunker to ensure security during the highly sensitive meetings (rush translation):
The number of people who can enter the shelter is very limited, and as a result, ministers’ assistants are no longer present at the meetings. In addition, the conduct of the bunker requires those present to attend the meeting without cell phones, and even when they are allowed to access the devices, it takes 10-15 minutes to reach the area where the reception takes place.
Currently, Israel is in a de facto state of war on two fronts: the Golan border with Syria and against Hamas in Gaza, which it has periodically bombed over the past months. Two weeks ago Israel’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria marked the biggest military escalation between the two countries in decades.
Israel says it was attacked by Iranian troops inside Syria and has repeatedly threatened to go to war over what it perceived is “Iranian expansion” up to Israel’s border.
Also according to Channel 10, Netanyahu’s NSC — now meeting in an underground bunker — will have the power to go to war and execute war plans even apart from the rest of Israeli government(rush translation):
At the beginning of the month, the bill passed from the government to the cabinet approved the authority to go to war or to carry out a military operation. This proposal constitutes an amendment to the Basic Law: The Government, which will allow the prime minister to make do with the approval of the cabinet, even without the full presence of his colleagues.
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) May 2, 2018
Netanyahu has constantly stressed that Israel sees Iran’s operations in Syria in support of the Assad government as an existential threat.
“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyah said after an August with meeting Russia’s President Putin, and continued with his ultimatum: “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”
And after Monday’s bellicose speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, vowing that Tehran will struggle to “keep its economy alive” if it does not comply with a list of 12 US demands, including Iranian withdrawal from Syria, Netanyahu hailed the tough new US strategy on Iran as “the right policy.”