Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Meir Ben Shabbat, a senior commander in the Shin Bet, as the new national security advisor.
"In two days, Meir Ben Shabbat will begin serving as head of the National Security Council (NSC)," Netanyahu said on Sunday at the outset of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
"Meir has rich experience in protecting Israel's security, in the Shin Bet, including his recent post as head of the southern district, and he carried out all of his duties with distinction. He is also familiar to members of the Security Cabinet, who are already well acquainted with the clarity of his thinking. We welcome him," the prime minister added.
Netanyahu decided to appoint Ben Shabbat for the role two months ago. "He's the right man at the right time," the prime minister said at the time.
However, Ben Shabbat's appointment as the head of the NSC is a temporary one, and it is unclear when the appointment would be made permanent.
Ben Shabbat, 51, has been serving as the head of the Shin Bet's Southern District over the past three years.
He has a degree in Political Science from Bar Ilan University and has completed Tel Aviv University’s graduate program for directors. He also completed a variety of courses in the fields of intelligence and senior management.
He joined the Shin Bet in 1989 upon his released from his service in the IDF's Givati Brigade. He started his journey in the southern district, acquired expertise on Hamas and the Gaza Strip, and played a part in most operations against the Gaza terror group over the past two decades. Among other things, he led the Shin Bet's operations in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.
Over the years, Ben Shabbat rose up the ranks in the Shin Bet, reached the position of division head and became a part of the agency's senior leadership. As part of his duties, Ben Shabbat managed hundreds of employees and managers in various capacities and in various professions.
He conducted dozens of intelligence and preventive operations, established foreign relations, formed units, led structural changes, was entrusted with research and strategic thinking, and helped formulate policies on a series of topics.
The NSC has been without a permanent director since Yossi Cohen left the position to lead the Mossad in January 2016.
Cohen was replaced by Ya’akov Nagel who served as acting head of the NSC until April 2017, but turned down Netanyahu’s offer to take up the position on a permanent basis, citing personal reasons.
Eitan Ben David took over as acting head and will now remain in the NSC, but the prime minister did not disclose what his role would be.
In February 2016, Netanyahu offered the position to the NSC’s former deputy head Avriel Bar Yosef. However, the NGO Ometz (Citizens for Proper Administration and Social and Legal Justice) petitioned against the appointment on the grounds that he had received benefits for promoting the interests of an overseas businessman. He later decided to turn down the offer and in November 2016 he was questioned by police on suspicion of bribery, money laundering and breach of trust. In July of this year he was arrested on suspicion of taking bribes in Case 3,000, an investigation into Israel’s purchase of submarines from Germany.
TPS contributed to this story.