Watchdog Believes Netanyahu, Ya’alon Kept Cabinet in the Dark in 2014 Gaza War, Sources Say

Most ministers in the security cabinet were sidelined and did not receive full information during Operation Protective Edge, according to officials who have seen a draft report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (R) and then-IDF chief Benny Gantz during Operation Protective Edge ,July 30, 2014.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz come in for sharp criticism in the State Comptroller’s draft report on 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, according to officials who have seen the report.

The draft report about the conduct of the security cabinet during the operation, as well as the decision-making process regarding the tunnels from Gaza, was issued by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Tuesday night.

The thrust of the report, according to the sources, is that the war was primarily managed by Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz, with the other ministers sidelined and many of the details of the war withheld from them.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira
Moti Milrod

The report is clearly critical of the overly general way in which the tunnel threat was presented to the security cabinet in the months preceding the operation, according to sources who have seen the report.

It is likewise critical of the lack of preparation and of an appropriate plan for dealing with the threat of tunnels running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory in the event of war.

In response to Haaretz’s request for reaction, the Prime Minister’s Office said: “If your information is correct and it appears in the report, we deny it completely. The prime minister was elected to lead the country, including in time of war. During Operation Protective Edge he convened the cabinet for dozens more meetings than were held during any other operation in the history of the state.” 

Neither Ya'alon nor Gantz responded to Haaretz's requests for their reactions. 

The draft report is classified “Top Secret” and runs to some 70 pages. It was distributed to Netanyahu and a long list of current and former ministers who were members of the security cabinet during the summer 2014 war.

Among those who received the report and were asked to provide comments were Ya’alon, who was defense minister at the time of the war, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, former finance minister Yair Lapid, former public security minister Yitzhak Aharonowitz, former justice minister Tzipi Livni and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

In September 2014, only weeks after the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, the Knesset’s State Control Committee instructed Shapira to focus his examination of the war on the conduct of the security cabinet and the decision-making process.

Other associated issues examined by the comptroller were the preparedness of the home front and the efficacy of the defense apparatus in dealing with the tunnel threat on all fronts.

In recent months, the comptroller heard testimony from Netanyahu, all the ministers who were members of the security cabinet at the time, and senior officials in the defense apparatus and the various government ministries that were party to the deliberations of the security cabinet.

The comptroller also reviewed recordings of all the cabinet meetings since the establishment of the government at the start of 2013.