Bennett Takes to Facebook to Defend Role in IDF Op That Left 102 Lebanese Dead

Habayit Hayehudi chief was a company commander during Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996.

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Naftali Bennett, December 2014.
Naftali Bennett, December 2014.Credit: Eli Neeman

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett sparred with journalist Raviv Drucker on Monday over criticism of Bennett’s conduct as an army officer during Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon, in 1996. Bennett was a company commander during an incident in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana that left 102 civilians dead.

The spat began with a column published in Friday’s Yedioth Ahronoth by another journalist, Yigal Sarna. The column described Bennett as having had utter contempt for his superiors and what he considered their hesitant conduct. Sarna claimed Bennett eventually decided, independently, to alter the operational plan. But when he subsequently encountered Hezbollah fire, Bennett called for help, and the ensuing artillery barrage accidentally killed the Lebanese civilians.

On Sunday, Bennett complained on his Facebook page that Sarna had “dug 20 years back” to accuse him of being “responsible for the massacre in Kafr Kana.”

Drucker – who works for Channel 10 and writes op-eds for Haaretz – then joined the fray, tweeting, “A senior army officer well-versed in the 1996 Kafr Kana probe told me some time ago, ‘On the communications network, the young officer, Bennett, sounded hysterical, and his pressure contributed more than a little to the terrible error.”

Responding to Drucker’s tweet via Facebook, Bennett wrote, “I remember very well where I was on that night in 1996. I was with my soldiers, deep inside Lebanon, facing the enemy. Where were you that evening, Drucker?”

Bennett later added another post, linking to a media interview conducted Monday with a soldier involved in the operation. That soldier denied Drucker’s claim.

Drucker then responded to Bennett, “Naftali, I remember that night very well. I was in my warm bed, protected by Israeli heroes like you, who earned the right to lead us by exalted heroism, and en route also took a pass on explanations. A hero of Israel like you doesn’t need to explain why the state comptroller found that eight million shekels [$2 million] belonging to the party you (heroically!) led disappeared in the [2013] election without receipts; a hero like you doesn’t need to explain why he hired a private detective and promised to pay him under the table, and when his findings against [fellow party MK] Nissan Slomiansky, your beloved comrade-in-heroism, arrived, you didn’t want to give them to the police.

“As I tossed and turned in bed that night, I remember wondering how much longer these heroes would use their heroism to avoid answering questions like what connection Habayit Hayehudi has to the latest corruption investigation ... And finally, 18 years later, I also think it’s appropriate for you to tell us what happened that night ... It’s permissible for a young officer to make a mistake, but it’s very strange that you’ve stubbornly refused to say what happened there.”

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