Israel’s defense minister and military chief during the 2014 Gaza war have defended themselves against criticism they expect to receive Tuesday when the state comptroller releases a report on Israel’s performance during the seven-week conflict.
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“Those who conducted politics in the [security] cabinet at the time, during the war, in an unprecedented manner, will continue to do so this week,” the defense minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
“They will tell you they didn’t know, they weren’t told, they didn’t receive reports. And the biggest lie of all? That we weren’t prepared and lost. It’s nonsense. There are those who leak and those who fight.”
The Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff during the war, Benny Gantz, has said he does not “accept what’s written” in the report.
“In [Operation] Protective Edge there was fine intelligence, excellent, accessible, not always perfect,” he told a closed forum of Miliary Intelligence veterans over the weekend, the daily Maariv reported. “ I’m willing to go on the next campaign with intelligence like what we had in the previous campaign.”
A month ago, a subcommittee of the State Control Committee allowed the publication of three sections of State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report on the war. One section is on the security cabinet’s functioning during the conflict, one is on the threat of Hamas’ attack tunnels into Israel, and the third is on international aspects of the war.
“Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya’alon failed in preparing the IDF and in managing the operation,” said Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former general who once headed the Southern Command.
“The former chief of staff neglected to prepare the military, and Ya’alon was negligent in overseeing the chief of staff. They both acted during the campaign with a lack of determination and hesitance. Now they’re hiding behind the [security] cabinet’s apron.”
A former minister who attended the security-cabinet meetings during the war criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who was then education minister.
“It was clear to us that Bennett would run a political campaign based on the tunnels and turn them into a banner issue. In meetings Bennett speaks in the language I heard in the Givati, really just quotes,” the former minister said, referring to an infantry brigade.
“Bennett even tried to receive information from officers who wear knitted kippot,” he added, referring to officers from the religious-Zionist community.
Bennett has repeatedly said he was among the first to identify the threat of Hamas’ attack tunnels, which caused Israel problems during the war.
“Since when does the cabinet address how to deal with tunnels? You’re the cabinet, what are you doing dealing with tactics?” the former minister said.
“For the cabinet to be more serious in its operations, you must replace the people who compose it. There were political steps; this is bankruptcy. What have we come to?” he added.
“After that they turned it into heroism, like ‘I was the first to identify it.’ With certain things the prime minister needed to pound on the table and with other things even to fire ministers.”
The former minister also cast doubt on Shapira’s ability to examine the events of the war, saying the comptroller did not have the right tools because his staff never served in operational positions in the military.
“They came with Bennett-like questions, they adopted that and ignored everything else,” the former minister said. “What, there was an operation that you look at only from the shaft of a tunnel? It’s better for this examination never to have taken place, so I think we have a great failure here.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not opposed the publication of parts of the report, has said in the past: “We managed the operation responsibly and in a determined, informed and forceful manner, and the results speak for themselves.”