Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday of issuing strict rules of engagement that led to the abduction of an Israeli officer during the 2014 war in Gaza.
According to Bennett, the action in which Major Benaya Sarel was killed and Lt. Hadar Goldin was abducted was the result of telling the soldiers “go take care of the tunnels but don’t open fire.” Bennet spoke of a “bizarre cease-fire agreement” in which the soldiers were told to “go, fight, but don’t fire unless fired upon first. That’s exactly what happened. They were fired on first and Benaya Sarel was killed.”
“This whole terrible incident stemmed from the open-fire rules that Benny Gantz and Bogie [Ya’alon] issued to IDF soldiers,” Bennett said in a radio interview.
Bennett is co-chair of the new Hayamin Hehadash party, and Gantz and Ya’alon are now leaders of the rival Kahol Lavan party. He has been very critical of Gantz's conduct as chief of staff during the 2014 Gaza war, since the latter entered politics.
In the incident in question, on August 1, 2014 about an hour after a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas came into place, a unit under Sarel’s command was surveying the area to locate enemy tunnels in the farmland east of Rafah. As the troops advanced Hamas militants opened fire, killing Sarel and abducting Goldin and Staff Sgt. Maj. Liel Gidoni. The Hamas militants disappeared into the tunnel, taking Goldin’s body with them.
Units under the command of Col. (now Brig. Gen.) Ofer Winter launched an assault into Rafah in an attempt to stop the abduction. A controversial procedure code-named the “Hannibal directive” authorizes attempts to stop kidnappings by firing at the abductors, even if it put Israeli soldiers at risk.
This is not the first time Bennett attacks Gantz and Ya'alon in relation to their conduct during the Gaza war. In January, Bennett told Army Radio: “If we had listened to Gantz and Bogie Ya’alon in 2014, we would have woken up to a terrible disaster in the western Negev of dozens of abductions into Gaza, hundreds of people murdered in a terror attack like we’d never seen before.”