Herzog: Netanyahu should resign over scathing Gaza war report
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Ex-general, now housing minister, warns: We're likely to confront much more serious operational challenges, in the north and south

Herzog: Netanyahu should resign over scathing Gaza war report

In wave of opposition censure, Lapid says PM ‘didn’t tell the public the truth’; Rivlin says government must learn from report, shouldn’t bury it

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and MK Tzipi Livni attend a faction meeting in the Knesset on February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and MK Tzipi Livni attend a faction meeting in the Knesset on February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition politicians on Tuesday censured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a damning state comptroller report on the government’s handling of the 2014 Gaza war, which accused the premier, the former defense minister, and the Israeli military of being ill-prepared to tackle the Hamas tunnel threat.

Criticism from the lawmakers poured in on Tuesday afternoon with most of it focused on Netanyahu, as the long-awaited government watchdog report was released to the public. The State Comptroller’s Office report also said the security cabinet was poorly informed of the threat posed by the Gaza subterranean attack infrastructure.

Netanyahu has defended his record, calling the operation a “great success” that brought “unprecedented quiet” to Israel’s south. The Israel Defense Forces has also hit back on some of the critique.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on Tuesday called on Netanyahu to resign, while praising the army for fighting “heroically and courageously.”

“Netanyahu must draw his conclusions and hand in the keys,” he said, while noting that the “dead did not die in vain and residents of the south gained a long period of quiet.”

Herzog said the report underlined that the Israeli leadership “failed in its job of understanding the threats, determining a strategy, grasping the reality, and adequately preparing the soldiers and citizens, especially the residents of the south.”

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)

The state comptroller described a “pattern of behavior and failure that went on for years,” Herzog charged. The country’s leaders had been busy with “political brawling for personal gain” on the backs of the country’s citizens, he added.

“The picture that emerges from the state comptroller must strike concern in the heart of every Israeli citizen,” said Herzog.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said the state comptroller’s report clearly showcased Netanyahu’s failures, but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

“The report clearly concludes that the State of Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu was not properly prepared for Operation Protective Edge,” Lapid said.

Yair Lapid (left) speaking with Naftali Bennett (right) during a plenum session in the Knesset, April 22, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yair Lapid (left) speaking with Naftali Bennett (right) during a plenum session in the Knesset, April 22, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The report proves beyond any doubt that the prime minister knew about the strategic threat of the tunnels, didn’t order the IDF to prepare an operational plan, didn’t inform the security cabinet and didn’t tell the public the truth.”

“Worst of all, nothing has been done since to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said in a statement.

Former justice minister Tzipi Livni, who had been a member of the high-level security cabinet during the conflict, said Israel must formulate an overall strategy vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip.

“We need a change in our thinking — setting targets before an operation and establishing diplomatic efforts to end it,” said the Zionist Union lawmaker. “Only a combination of the military and diplomatic will bring victory.”

Her fellow party member Amir Peretz, a contender for the Labor Party leadership, accused Netanyahu of turning the security cabinet into an “empty vessel from which essential information was concealed.”

Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin urged the government to carefully study the report and implement its recommendations.

President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin (C) and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett , pictured at a conference for directors of local ducation departments in Jerusalem on February 28, 2017. Photo by Mark Neyman/GPO
President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin (C) and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett , pictured at a conference for directors of local ducation departments in Jerusalem on February 28, 2017. Photo by Mark Neyman/GPO

“Flaws that have been revealed require fixing. This is not a time to exchange punches. This is the time to learn from the reports’ findings, to implement them as necessary, and to strengthen the Israel Defense Forces so it may continue to serve as a barrier of defense to us,” said Rivlin.

From inside the coalition, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, who lobbied Netanyahu loudly for a ground operation to destroy the tunnels during the early days of the nearly two-month war, refrained from cheering the report, which backed up his long-held position.

“This is not an easy day, it calls for responsibility and sensitivity. I will study the situation deeply and will respond in due course,” he tweeted.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former general whose Kulanu party is in the governing coalition, said the war “is a warning sign.”

“In the future, we’re likely to confront operational challenges that are much more serious, in the north and the south, as the result of the enemy’s progress and its refusal to accept our existence in this strip of land,” Galant said. “We’ll learn lessons within the military and defense apparatus, in the way the cabinet operates and in the way the two work together.”

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