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Meir Ben-Shabbat

Gershon Burstyn

Israel’s new national security advisor

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

 Mishpacha image

Ben-Shabbat has a specially installed “Shabbos phone” on the grounds of his yishuv. When he receives a message via beeper, he retreats to a phone whose encryption technology allows for clandestine conversations

M eir Ben-Shabbat, 52, is Israel’s new national security advisor, filling a post that has been officially vacant since 2015, when Yoram Cohen left to lead the Mossad. Ben-Shabbat will sit in the corner office in what’s known as the “aquarium,” the inner sanctum of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s headquarters, where state secrets are guarded and military operations launched.

Unassuming

In photos, Ben-Shabbat resembles more a reserved school teacher than a master tactician and intelligence wizard — but that’s exactly how he’s described. In the months leading up to the 2014 Gaza War, Ben-Shabbat, who then led the Shin Bet’s Southern Command, warned the cabinet that Hamas was using innocent-looking rice bags to smuggle weapons and cement into the seaside enclave. “It wasn’t easy to go against the whole intelligence system, but he deciphered the human codes, spoke with his sources, and realized that there was a major mistake here,” a source in the Southern Command told Mishpacha. When war broke out, his hunch that the terror group was building tunnels to ensnare Israeli soldiers saved hundreds of lives.

Just Call Him “M”

Ben-Shabbat hails from a Moroccan-Israeli family, the 12th of 14 children. He attended a dati leumi yeshivah and later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Bar-Ilan University. Ben-Shabbat — who was formerly known as “M” in the masked intelligence briefings of the Shin Bet — is married with four kids and lives on a religious settlement in the “central region” (per the Shin Bet parlance) where he is reportedly the baal korei and delivers a weekly shiur on Shabbos.

Shabbos Phone

Mishpacha’s Eliezer Shulman reports that Ben-Shabbat has a specially installed “Shabbos phone” on the grounds of his yishuv. When he receives a message via beeper, he retreats to a phone whose encryption technology allows for clandestine conversations.

All in a Day’s Work

Ben-Shabbat, who has been an employee of the Shin Bet since 1989, will now be privy to all the inner workings of the Israeli security establishment. On the top of his list are three pressing intelligence challenges: One, positioning Israel and Western forces as a bulwark against Iranian advances in Syria. Two, countering Hamas aggression in Gaza and preparing for the next war. Three, confronting a strengthening ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, where the terror group has harassed the Egyptian army and hopes to one day launch direct assaults on Israel. In other words, all in a day’s work for Israel’s national security advisor. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 674)

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