Netanyahu: I can’t fire Liberman, Bennett over Gaza war criticism
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Netanyahu: I can’t fire Liberman, Bennett over Gaza war criticism

PM says delicate coalition system makes move impossible, dismisses state comptroller probe into 2014 conflict as ‘unnecessary’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the delicate formulation of his coalition government prevents him from firing Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman or Education Minister Naftali Bennett, despite their harsh criticism of his handling of the war with Hamas in Gaza in 2014.

“In our system of government, a coalition government, it is problematic, the government may fall,” Netanyahu told reporters, according to Channel 2. “This is not a presidential system — I cannot fire them,” he says.

Both Liberman, who heads the Israel Beytenu party, and Jewish Home leader Bennett have lambasted Netanyahu for the way in which the 50-day conflict was managed, in particular the poor communication between the PM and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and the rest of the security cabinet, and the security establishment’s failure to anticipate the tunnel threat from Gaza.

Bennett has also slammed Netanyahu for refusing to learn from past mistakes in the run-up to the Gaza conflict.

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman at the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman at the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the meeting Wednesday, Netanyahu also brushed off reported concerns over a state comptroller report on the 2014 that is expected to excoriate him and other senior defense officials over the Israeli leadership’s performance during the conflict.

“I don’t understand why there’s even a probe into the operation. It’s an unnecessary report. Militaries all over the world learn from us on how this operation was handled,” Netanyahu said.

Last month, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira reportedly warned Netanyahu that he will recommend a commission of inquiry into the government’s handling of the war, should the prime minister refuse to make public a report on the 50-day conflict.

The report is expected to be published sometime over the next two months, according to reports in the Hebrew media.

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

Leaks of the report’s contents earlier this year accused Netanyahu, Ya’alon, and then-IDF chief Benny Gantz of covering up information regarding the threat posed by the Hamas terror group ahead of the war.

According to media sources who reviewed the 70-page document in May, Shapira accused Netanyahu and Ya’alon of failing to provide the security cabinet with real-time updates regarding the imminent threat of war with Hamas and the capabilities of the terror group’s cross-border attack tunnels.

The prime minister and the defense minister were also said to conceal warnings from the Shin Bet security agency, which raised the potential for war with Hamas in early July 2014, according to Channel 10. The conflict, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8, 2014.

Members of the security cabinet were only apprised of the Shin Bet warning once the operation was underway, the report said.

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