A new bill to be proposed on Monday would turn the Ministry of Intelligence Affairs into a statutory ministry headed by a full-time minister with expansive authority regarding budgets and appointments in the intelligence services. Passage of the bill would bring Israel in line with other Western countries, whereas the intelligence services – the Mossad and Shin Bet – currently answer directly to the prime minister
The Secret Services Bill, initiated by opposition MKs Ofer Shelah and Yaakov Perry (both Yesh Atid), could spark an intense debate within the political echelon and the defense establishment. Members of the governing coalition have in the past argued in favor of a change regarding responsibility over the intelligence services, saying that the prime minister may not be available to handle them given his vsat array of duties.
According to Shelah, who formulated the bill after researching the topic and the model in other countries, “regulating the intelligence services’ activities and governmental oversight is a necessary step that should have occurred a long time ago.” He noted that these services have answered directly to the prime minister. “In this situation,” he said, “the secret services have no ministerial oversight like what the IDF and other intelligence services in the world have.
The first section of the bill regards regulation of ministerial supervision over the secret services, and would turn the Ministry of Intelligence Affairs into a statutory ministry headed by a full-time minister who would also serve as a regular member of the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (AKA the Security Cabinet).
According to the bill, the secret services would continue to be under the authority of the prime minister, but the intelligence minister would fulfill several functions on behalf of the prime minister, including approval and oversight of the budgets, senior staff appointments, and major organizational changes.
The second part of the bill proposes amendments to the Shin Bet bill of 2002. “The Shin Bet law is an example for how similar legal regulations decisively contributed to the organizaiton’s efficiency and its legitimacy in the eyes of the public and the legal judiciary,” said Shelah, “thanks to the creation of an appropriate civilian and legal sheath for its activities.” The new bill includes minor amendments, he said, that deal with the intelligence affairs minister’s authorities.
The third part of the bill states the necessity of legal codification for the Mossad within a year of the bill’s passage. Such a move has long been discussed, and enjoys support from both the Mossad and judiciary.