Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday denied a claim that sensitive intelligence information was withheld from the country's hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, when he was his strategic affairs chief several years ago.
Olmert said that during his tenure as premier, Lieberman had full access to information gathered by both the Mossad intelligence agency and the Shin Bet internal security organization. He also said Lieberman dealt with the most sensitive affairs.
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said over the weekend that Lieberman had not been given full access to secret information while he was minister of strategic affairs from October 2006 to January 2008. He did not say what kind of information had been withheld, or give a reason for keeping it from Lieberman.
In a letter addressed to Lieberman, Olmert said he had instructed all security agencies to provide Lieberman with all available information.
"At no point was any restriction imposed on passing intelligence, even the most sensitive, and I never received a report, a request or a recommendation from any intelligence official to limit your exposure to such information," Olmert wrote.
"During your tenure in the government, you took part in all discussions that dealt with strategic issues that you were responsible for, and received all the necessary information presented in these discussions without limitations," he said.
Lieberman's spokesman, Tzachi Moshe, said Lieberman passed a comprehensive security inspection years ago, before he was chief of staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term, in the 1990s. As strategic affairs minister, he regularly met with Israel's intelligence heads, he said.
But Olmert spokesman Jacob Galanti told The Associated Press on Sunday that in any case Israel's security agencies would not have had the right to withhold information from Lieberman due to any security clearance. "There is no security clearance for ministers in the state of Israel," Galanti said. "The elected echelon does not have security clearances."
The Strategic Affairs Ministry and the Shin Bet agency denied comment Sunday, as did current government spokesman Mark Regev.
Lieberman, who immigrated from what is now Moldova some three decades ago, founded the hard-line Yisrael Beitenu party, which currently holds the third biggest faction in parliament, giving its leader significant clout. He is currently awaiting a final hearing on whether he will face corruption charges.
Israel's attorney general announced in April that he intended to indict the foreign minister on charges of breach of trust, aggravated fraud, money laundering and harassing a witness. Lieberman is suspected of illicitly receiving money and laundering it through shell companies. He has denied the accusations.