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Senior Israeli security official reveals state secrets as he runs, bikes

This article originally appeared in Haaretz and was reprinted here with permission.

Sunday, December 12, Abu Dhabi. It’s 23 degrees Celsius, the relative humidity is 60 percent and an 18 kilometer per hour northwesterly wind is blowing. Not ideal weather for running, but nothing stops A. – a senior commander at the VIP security unit of the Shin Bet, now on loan to the Foreign Ministry – from a light nighttime jog. A., who holds a rank equivalent to a lieutenant colonel, has participated in the iron man race three times in the past, turning in fabulous times for an amateur. He spends every free moment on sports.

While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rested in his room, A. left the hotel, ran up the coastal promenade and back, covering 12.55 kilometers in one hour and 29 seconds. Throughout the run, his Garmin Fenix 5 watch broadcast his location to fellow athletes over social media networks. Anyone who cared could see his route and the places he travels around the world. On Wednesday morning, for instance, you could see that A. had already gone on a run, even though he and the rest of the prime minister’s entourage were supposed to be in quarantine until Thursday morning, having been exposed to a person with COVID on the plane ride back.

Some of these apps enable you to find a runner by segment. A quick search during Bennett’s visit to the United Arab Emirates easily revealed A. He identifies himself on a runners’ social network by first name and last initial but also posted a photo from the Israman 2018 race, replete with jersey number. A five-second Google search reveals his full name.

Since May 1, 2016, A. has gone on 531 runs and 1,155 bicycle rides. After the bicycle rides, he uploads many photos of himself and friends.

The vast majority of his sports activity takes place in Israel and, among others, he has documented many runs from Shin Bet headquarters in Ramat Aviv, revealing his work location.

On March 22, with a COVID lockdown preventing outdoor workouts, A. continued with his exercise routine of running and biking. At 6:39 A.M., he left Shin Bet headquarters for a 19-kilometer run. A satellite image revealed the precise location of his starting point – a back exit from the Shin Bet offices into Hayarkon Park. “Calling the Shin Bet on You,” a friend texted him. A. replied: “By the rules.” There must have been special rules for Shin Bet personnel. The next day he rode 60 kilometers in the Jerusalem hills with two friends.

Many of the documented runs are overseas, offering a peek into the travels of Israeli VIPs, including unreported ones. Thus, for example, on December 15, 2019, A. visited an African country. By 5:24 A.M., he had already run 14 kilometers. The next day he added some biking. On January 7, 2020, he was in another African country, where he went on a short morning run and then biking. In each case, A. shared his precise location in the city and country.

No Israeli VIP is known to have visited either of these countries on those dates, but A’s watch revealed visits, or preparations by the personnel security unit ahead of them.

In July 2018, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on a visit to Moscow, A. embarked on a 12-kilometer, one-hour run along the river starting at 6:00 A.M. That night, he accompanied Netanyahu to the World Cup semifinal between Croatia and England. “A little pop-over to Moscow,” he wrote, adding a photo he took from the VIP box. From there, he went on a private vacation to Italy.

In June 2019, when a dispute between Israel and Poland over Poland’s Holocaust Law, which prohibits placing blame on the Polish people for crimes that took place during World War II, the heads of the Mossad and the National Security Council held talks about the wording of the law. On 24th of the month, at the peak of the crisis, A. popped up in Warsaw, we know because he ran 17 kilometers in the center of Warsaw.

In addition, he has been to Rome several times, Paris and the UAE. Whom did he accompany to those destinations? One may only guess. Or follow on social media.

The Shin Bet declined comment.

This article originally appeared in Haaretz and was reprinted here with permission.

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