Minister hints move will help avert ICC proceedings

Gantz demands immediate formation of state commission of inquiry into Oct. 7 failures

Challenging Netanyahu, who insists move wait until war’s end, war cabinet minister insists ‘we must take responsibility and act’ so that Hamas onslaught ‘never happens again’

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz in a video message issued May 23, 2024, demanding the immediate establishment of a state commission of inquiry in the events leading up to October 7, 2023. (Screenshot)
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz in a video message issued May 23, 2024, demanding the immediate establishment of a state commission of inquiry in the events leading up to October 7, 2023. (Screenshot)

In a direct challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz on Thursday demanded the immediate establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the failures that led to Hamas’s devastating onslaught of October 7.

Netanyahu has insisted on waiting for a state commission of inquiry to make any determination regarding the culpability of the government — which he insists cannot be formed while the war in Gaza is ongoing.

“We’ve all seen the difficult video of the kidnapping in Nahal Oz, we’ve all seen the public debate about whether or not warning was given to the prime minister,” Gantz, head of the National Unity party and one of only three voting members of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, said in a video statement.

“There is no doubt — the period and the events leading up to October 7, and the continuation of the campaign since then, are a national upheaval from which we must learn,” he said.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum released harrowing footage on Wednesday showing the abduction of five female soldiers from the Nahal Oz base by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

“At this time, it is no longer enough that we take responsibility for what happened. We must take responsibility and act, so that it never happens again,” Gantz continued, insisting that “the only way to do this is through a state commission of inquiry that should be set up as soon as possible.”

“I intend to soon submit a proposed resolution for its establishment, so that the committee can organize itself for the start of work on a date that will be agreed upon,” he added.

Netanyahu did not immediately respond Thursday to Gantz’s demand.

Gantz’s statement came only hours after the Israel Defense Forces, in response to a freedom of information request, revealed that the prime minister had received multiple communiques from Military Intelligence in the spring and summer of 2023 warning him about how the country’s enemies viewed that year’s mass political upheaval.

Opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul protest in Tel Aviv on August 2, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Some have blamed the government’s attempts to overhaul the judiciary and the rise of a massive opposition movement for projecting weakness, leading Hamas to launch its onslaught on October 7.

Netanyahu rejected the idea that he had been warned about the massive Hamas attack, which led to the murder of more than 1,200 people and the abduction of 252.

“Not only is there no warning in any of the documents about Hamas’s intentions to attack Israel from Gaza, but they instead give a completely opposite assessment,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The prime minister added that the only two references to the Palestinian terror group in the four documents in question “indicate that Hamas did not want to attack Israel from Gaza” — arguing that the intelligence assessment that Hamas was not interested in an escalation was “consistently shared by all of the security agencies, who even claimed that Hamas was deterred.”

In his comments on Thursday, Gantz — who recently threatened to bolt the coalition over Netanyahu’s management of the war in Gaza — argued that establishing a commission now rather than later “will also help us with the international legal challenges that lie before us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to IDF Northern Command headquarters, May 23, 2024. (Maayan Toaf/GPO)

In an unprecedented and hugely controversial development, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, said Monday that he had requested arrest warrants from the court’s judges for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with top Hamas leaders.

Khan explained that he believed his recommendation was necessary because he had not seen compelling evidence that Israeli courts were probing alleged violations of international law in Gaza — a claim rejected by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and State Attorney Amit Aisman.

The kind of independent commission demanded by Gantz, usually headed by retired Supreme Court justices, would almost certainly head off procedures in the ICC, since the court is prohibited in principle by the Rome Statute which founded it from holding proceedings against the nationals of a country which is itself holding credible investigations into the allegations in question.

But establishing a state commission would be politically difficult in Israel, since it could give the impression that there is a legitimate case to answer.

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan (center) announces that he has requested arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, May 20, 2024. (Courtesy International Criminal Court)

Earlier this year, Netanyahu’s Likud party attempted to discredit the findings of a previous state commission of inquiry after it named the premier among the officials personally responsible for the 2021 Meron disaster.

In that incident, 45 Israelis were trampled to death while on pilgrimage at the grave of a revered second-century rabbi.

In its statement responding to the findings of the panel, Likud rejected the commission of inquiry’s mandate, given that it was established by his political rivals, former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, and was tasked with probing an event that hadn’t take place during their tenure.

“Lapid’s cynical and deliberate attempt to turn the Meron disaster into a political weapon will not succeed,” Likud declared, all but dismissing the panel’s findings.

Jeremy Sharon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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