Israel's Watchdog Warns Gov’t Against Burying Report on 2014 Gaza War

State comptroller says he’ll support inquiry commission on Operation Protective Edge if forthcoming report is classified to spare top officials his criticism.

A Palestinian fighter from the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, August 18, 2014.
Reuters

The state comptroller has warned that he will support establishing a state commission of inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war if the Knesset decides to classify the report that he is writing on the war.

Sources close to Comptroller Joseph Shapira said he would support an inquiry commission if the Knesset classifies the report to prevent political damage to government officials. Channel 2 television reported Thursday night that Shapira has already warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of this.

The authority to classify a comptroller’s report on Operation Protective Edge rests with a subcommittee of the Knesset’s State Control Committee. Establishing a state commission of inquiry is normally the government’s decision, but the law also allows the State Control Committee to recommend establishing such a commission to further investigate the findings of a comptroller’s report. The committee is headed by an opposition member of Knesset, Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid).

The comptroller has already sent drafts of some chapters from his report on the war to the relevant officials to obtain their responses. One of the most explosive chapters, according to people familiar with the report, deals with the diplomatic-security cabinet’s functioning during the fighting.

Sources who have read the draft chapter said it harshly criticizes three people in particular – Netanyahu, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. They said Shapira concluded that this troika largely ran the war on their own, leaving the diplomatic-security cabinet out of the loop and concealing much of the relevant information from other ministers.

The sources said the comptroller also criticized the fact that in the months preceding the war, the threat posed by Hamas’ cross-border tunnels was presented to the diplomatic-security cabinet only in general terms. In addition, he found the preparations and plans for dealing with the tunnels in the event of a war to be inadequate.

PM's response

Asked to comment on these claims, the Prime Minister’s Office responded, “If the things you’ve said are indeed correct and appear in the draft, we reject them out of hand. The prime minister is the one who was elected to run the country, including in wartime.”

Moreover, the PMO said, the diplomatic-security cabinet met “dozens of times” during the war, “more than in any other operation in the country’s history.”

The draft chapter on the tunnels was sent to the relevant officials in February. In a press statement at the time, the comptroller’s office said the draft found various problems, “some of them serious,” in preparing for and dealing with the tunnel threat both before and during the war.

Other topics covered in the report include technological solutions to the tunnel problem, preparations for home front defense against Hamas’ rockets, and the IDF’s compliance with international law during the fighting.