Israel’s deputy ambassador to Washington, Dan Arbel, was suspended from his post on Tuesday for allegedly leaking sensitive information to a Haaretz reporter in 2009. The respected senior diplomat is widely expected to undergo disciplinary measures pending the close of an investigation into the matter.
Foreign Ministry Director General Rafael Barak sent a memorandum to all ministry employees explaining the circumstances, while making little reference to the Shin Bet investigation. He wrote that the incident involved "giving sensitive confidential information obtained in the course of the employee's job to an Israeli journalist. The contact with the journalist was unauthorized and violated ministry directives."
Barak claimed that the employee confessed to the leak during an investigation. "In light of the diplomatic sensitivity and the seriousness of the matter, I concluded that I had no choice but to remove the employee from his post immediately."
Some foreign ministry officials are furious over the dismissal. An official spoke to Israel Hayom, affirming, "Arbel is a professional by any international standard.”
Ben Caspit was far more defensive in newspaper Maariv. Calling Arbel “one of the most seasoned and highly-esteemed figures in Israel's foreign service,” Caspit contended, "An attempt is under way here to instill fear. An attempt is under way to deter people from talking to journalists."
Arbel is the second diplomat to be dismissed over the incident. Alon Bar, then the ministry’s deputy director-general for strategic affairs, was suspended for leaking the same classified information in December of 2009. He was exonerated following an investigation, and now serves as Israel’s ambassador to Spain.
Arbel is currently in Washington, and will remain stateside until the conclusion of the investigation. Spokesmen in both the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and the embassy in Washington were instructed not to discuss the matter.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein did say, "A senior official is being returned after his tenure was brought to an end." She called the move unusual, and would not disclose the circumstances surrounding the dismissal or the identity of the official.
Photo Credit: AFP/File, Tim Sloan