Bennett Proposed Strike on Hamas' Tunnels in Gaza, but Netanyahu and Ya'alon Rejected Him

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Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as chairman of the Council for Higher Education, in January 2016.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed that Israel attack tunnels that are being dug by Hamas from Gaza to Israel. Bennett made the proposal at a security cabinet meeting over the past few weeks. 

A senior Israeli official with knowledge of the details of that meeting, but who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon rejected the idea.

Channel 2 journalist Amit Segal first reported Bennett’s proposal last night.

The senior official told Haaretz that Bennett was a lone voice in that meeting; not one minister supported his position. “It’s not even sure that Bennett himself believed in the idea he raised at the meeting,” the official said, adding that in recent meetings of the security cabinet about the tunnels, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service registered their opposition to a direct attack on the tunnels initiated by Israel at this time.

File Photo: IDF soldiers investigating a tunnel in Gaza.Credit: IDF

The prime minister’s bureau responded sharply to the fact that the matter had been made public and criticized Bennett. “We do not discuss meetings of the security cabinet in general and operational plans of the IDF in particular,” a statement from the bureau said. “All the ministers should show responsibility and not try to rustle up votes in superficial political background briefings, which do not reflect the deep and responsible discussions in the cabinet."

The aggressive response by Netanyahu’s bureau against Bennett follows Bennett’s criticism a few weeks ago of Netanyahu and Ya’alon, when in a speech at the conference of the Institute for National Security Studies he accused them of “stagnated thinking” on diplomatic and security matters.

Officials close to Ya'alon said that cabinet ministers must stop making "childish, uninhibited and irresponsible remarks, while deceiving the cheating the public. This phenomenon of ministers willing to drag the country to war out of cynical political motives, simply jeopardizes Israel's security. If we are required to go to war, we will, but war isn't child's play and not something to trade for votes, or for making headlines with vapid slogans. We're dealing with human lives. The activities against the tunnels are comprehensive, and include the best of our troops and technology. This madness must stop."

About a week ago in an interview on Israel Radio, Ya’alon hinted at a dispute in the cabinet regarding the Hamas tunnels. "Let's leave these discussion to behind closed doors," he said. "It might be suggested now to go and attack the 100,000 Hezbollah rockets in the north, or the hundreds of missiles that Iran is aiming at us. On this matter one must show good judgment and responsibility.”

Last week, the state comptroller submitted a draft report on the threat posed by tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israel, which found deficiencies and gaps, some described as serious, in the country's preparedness.

The draft, submitted prior to completion of his full report on 2014's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, was prompted by the "apparent urgency of the tunnel issue on all fronts." The comptroller’s office regards the draft’s findings and conclusions as being a wake-up call for the political and defense echelons.

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