Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Breaking the Silence of "crossing another red line" on Thursday evening following an investigative report aired on Channel 2 documenting the NGO's activists trying to obtain sensitive and classified operational intelligence about the IDF.
The prime minister said that the "security investigative authorities are examining the issue."
The Channel 2 report claimed that Breaking the Silence worked to place its people in classified units in the IDF in order to gather information that the organization could then use in its activities against "the occupation." In addition, the report claimed that the NGO’s activists interviewed IDF veterans on issues that do not concern human rights, but rather military secrets.
The report, based on hidden-camera footage filmed by activists of the right-wing organization Ad Kan (“enough” in Hebrew), showed Ron Zaidel, the head of Breaking the Silence's Testimony Gathering Department, asking veteran soldiers a series of questions, including:
"The mortar platoon, are they stationed inside the checkpoint area?"
"Doesn't the company over there do border fence missions?"
"What were the missions there?"
"What do you mean, working on the tunnels?"
"Is this operational or is this an experiment?"
"The things we are asking are for our knowledge," Zaidel is seen claiming. "You know, for our professional knowledge and ... things that sometimes are important but it's hard to see why, and question that would appear irrelevant to you."
The report documents one conversation in which Zaidel and Alon Sa'ar from Breaking the Silence are collecting testimony from Haim, an undercover Ad Kan activist, and in the process asking him sensitive questions about the IDF's activity in the Gaza border area.
Zaidel: "You mentioned something about the tunnels, that there were alerts?"
Zaidel: "Can you tell me a bit about it?"
Haim: "Yes, there were alerts about tunnels."
Zaidel: "Was it just alerts or was there any operative activity too?"
Haim: "No. In Kissufim, there was. In Kissufim there was a tunnel they found half a kilometer from the base."
Sa'ar: "How did they find it?"
Haim: "I think some ... scout that was in the area saw some graben ... maybe the rain created that graben, I can't remember exactly what that was."
The report also showed a woman called Prima Bibes, who told the Ad Kan activist with the hidden camera that one of the Breaking the Silence's prominent activists told her to go serve at the Civil Administration and come back two years later to tell the organization about her service.
Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter and former GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi, were interviewed for the Channel 2 report, criticizing the NGO's conduct. "Bringing a female soldier to glean information about what is being done in the military is a serious thing," Mizrahi said. "If any other cases like this occurred, then this is a far graver case."
Following the Channel 2 report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon instructed the IDF's criminal investigation division (CID), the Information Security Department, and the Military Advocate General to launch an investigation to see whether released soldiers revealed classified information about their service. This follows a previous decision by Ya'alon to stop IDF cooperation with Breaking the Silence.
Breaking the Silence, meanwhile, denied the accusations made against them, despite being documented by the cameras of the activists from Ad Kan.
"We don't collect classified material and we don't monitor units," said Yuli Novak, the director of Breaking the Silence. "This is the work of several organizations that, alongside MKs from the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties, are working to silence those who seek to criticize the government and the occupation. We're working closely with the IDF censor, the only body authorized to determine what can be published and what cannot."
In response to the prime minister's condemnation, Breaking the Silence said: "A prime minister that turns Israel's security services into a political tool - that is the true dangerous crossing of a red line, and should be investigated.
"Breaking the Silence has nothing to hide or fear, but Prime Minister Netanyahu's attempt to shut down Breaking the Silence and hurt soldiers and fighters who oppose the occupation should worry anything who is concerned for the future of the State of Israel."
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also slammed the organization, noting that "Breaking the Silence is undermining the State of Israel and causing it serious damage from both within and without."
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said that "We must say 'Ad Kan' (enough) to Breaking the Silence."
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli added that "the findings are grave and very concerning, and there's no confusing the definitions of right and left in this manner. Instead of the declared activity of working for human rights, there is an undermining activity of collecting sensitive information that there's no knowing to whom it is being passed and for what."