Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett bypassed the chain of command and received sensitive information from at least two senior IDF officials during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, according to a news report aired Friday.
Bennett’s statements in cabinet meetings about the IDF’s findings in Gaza reportedly raised suspicions that led then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon to order then-chief of staff Benny Gantz to investigate whether Bennett was receiving information from IDF sources that did not come through regular Defense Ministry channels.
Defense officials accused Bennett at the time of opening “a private, unapproved channel” to gain information about IDF findings and deployments.
Bennett, the education minister and a long-time member of the key decision-making security cabinet, was “using military information for political ends,” Ya’alon charged in the summer of 2014.
A former IDF chief rabbi was accused of leaking information to Bennett and was dismissed from reserve duty in the immediate aftermath of the war, a charge he denied.
Now, two years after the war broke out, Channel 10 reported Friday that Bennett breached protocol and met with Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter and Brig. Gen. Erez Weiner during Operation Protective Edge bypassing the chief of staff and defense minister.
Bennett, Israel’s economy minister at the time, reportedly received sensitive information about IDF operations in the Gaza Strip from the two senior officers. A senior IDF official confirmed the information, telling the channel that Winter and Weiner met with Bennett in the field and in his car at the minister’s request.
Bennett vocally criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the operation, calling for a full ground operation during the early days of the war, which later materialized.
Winter made headlines during the 51-day war in the Gaza Strip over an official dispatch he sent to battalion and company commanders on July 9, 2014 telling his subordinates that “history has chosen us to spearhead the fighting (against) the terrorist ‘Gazan’ enemy which abuses, blasphemes and curses the God of Israel’s (defense) forces.”
In the missive he also called upon “the God of Israel” to “make our path successful as we go and stand to fight for the sake of your people of Israel against a foe which curses your name.”
The letter drew harsh criticism from some because it framed Operation Protective Edge as a religious war against non-Jews. The stated aim of the campaign is to halt rocket attacks at Israel and destroying a network of tunnels dug under the border from Gaza that have been used to launch terror attacks inside Israeli territory.
Bennett has recently renewed his criticism of the government’s handling of the operation amid calls for an official inquiry. Bennett slammed Netanyahu for refusing to learn from past mistakes in the run-up to the Gaza conflict.
“Before the next conflict we are obligated to learn from the mistakes of the past and not to deny them. Drawing real conclusions is a sign of strength and self-confidence,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “Anyone who refuses to learn from the mistakes of the past is condemned to repeat them in the future.”