Ex-ministers slam Israeli leadership for ‘failures’ during 2014 war

Ex-ministers slam Israeli leadership for ‘failures’ during 2014 war

Leaked State Comptroller report accuses Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz of failing to anticipate Hamas tunnel threat, withholding info from cabinet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (center) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (right) in southern Israel on July 21, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (center) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (right) in southern Israel on July 21, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Former foreign minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar on Friday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for their conduct during the 2014 Gaza war, ahead of the release of a scathing State Comptroller report on the Israeli leadership’s performance during the 50-day conflict.

Netanyahu, Ya’alon and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz are expected to face harsh criticism in the upcoming report, leaked to the Israeli media on Thursday.

In the report, Netanyahu and Ya’alon are accused of not updating the security cabinet in real time of the imminent threat of war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and not discussing the grave threat of the terror group’s attack tunnels, according to Hebrew media sources who read the draft report.

The prime minister and the defense minister concealed from the cabinet the fact that the Shin Bet security agency had warned of a potential war with Hamas in early July 2014, Channel 10 reported. The war, which Israel dubbed Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8, 2014. Members of the security cabinet were only apprised of the Shin Bet warning during the operation, the report said.

Liberman, while noting that he is not permitted to address the report directly, said Netanyahu and Ya’alon represent “leadership that avoids responsibility, that is incapable of making the required decisions, and is unable to ensure the security of Israel’s citizens.

Leader of the Yisrael Beyteinu political party MK Avigdor Liberman arrives at the Knesset, Jerusalem March 15, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party MK Avigdor Liberman arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 15, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“What is no less serious [than Netanyahu and Ya’alon’s conduct in 2014] is that just as before Operation Protective Edge, Israel today also merely responds to Hamas’s actions and threats and takes no real initiative to change the situation at its foundation and remove the ongoing threat from Gaza, which is becoming more powerful, for the residents of Israel,” added Liberman, who served as Netanyahu’s foreign minister during the war.

Former Likud minister Sa’ar — who, although he has left politics, has long been seen as a contender for the premiership — also dubbed the 50-day war “a failure for Israel.

“The way to fix the mistakes is not to avoid criticism,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “One must learn from mistakes and failures. Denying reality is not the right way.”

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar (Abir Sultan/Flash90/File)

In the draft report, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira also slams Gantz for the IDF’s lack of operational readiness and planning vis-à-vis the threats posed by tunnels in the Strip.

Hamas’s tunnels were used to devastating effect during the war on a number of occasions to ambush IDF soldiers.

Following the publication of details from the report, Shapira on Friday said he would investigate who it was that leaked the information.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (Flash90)
Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (Flash90)

Shapira’s report is expected to be even harsher than the infamous Winograd Commission, which took the Olmert government to task for its conduct during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, and which led to the resignation of then-IDF chief Dan Halutz, Channel 2 reported.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon hit back at Shapira on Thursday evening, dismissing the report as “not serious.”

Sources close to the two men said they rejected the claims against them in the draft.

“The operation was conducted with unprecedented transparency vis-à-vis the security cabinet. Over the course of the operation, Netanyahu convened the cabinet dozens of times, more than during any other [military] operation in history,” a source close to Netanyahu said Thursday.

The Israeli military destroyed over 30 Hamas tunnels during the 2014 operation, and recently uncovered two sophisticated tunnels that lead into Israeli territory, including one on Thursday.

Following the 50-day conflict, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) in developing a detection system to locate such tunnels.

The draft report came amid fears of another conflict in the south after several days of exchanges near the border.

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