Netanyahu Associates Blast Comptroller's Draft Gaza War Report as 'Biased, Politicking'

Senior officials who saw the draft report, first published by Haaretz, said comptroller found serious shortcomings in Israel's preparedness against tunnel threat.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked Thursday the draft report on Operation Protective Edge by State Comptroller Yitzhak Shapira, first published by Haaretz, saying it “reeks of politicking."

Shapira distributed the report on the fighting in Gaza on Tuesday to Netanyahu and the ministers who were members of the security cabinet in the summer of 2014.

Responding to the report, a close Netanyahu associate said it “reeks of politicking by a state comptroller who published two special and biased reports on the eve of the last elections,” referring to reports on spending at the Prime Minister’s Residence and the housing crisis.

The comptroller, the sources close to Netanyahu said, was “supported by former security cabinet members who are today in the opposition and seek to attack the government,” a reference to lawmakers Avigdor Lieberman, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid.

"This report is unserious by a comptroller who is unserious,” associates of Netanyahu said of Shapira, who was appointed to his post in 2012, with strong support from the prime minister.

The report, which members of Netanyahu’s inner circle said they “rejected out of hand,” includes statements that are factually incorrect, they alleged. “The [defense] system was managed with unprecedented transparency vis a vis the inner cabinet,” they said.

“In Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu called dozens of meetings of the inner cabinet – more than any other operation in the history of the state,” they added.

Sources close to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also attacked the comptroller’s draft report. “This is a scandalous draft, from the fact it was leaked before those involved could respond, to the information it contains, which shares little relation to reality,” a person close to Ya'alon said. “The facts in the draft are not accurate, and whoever wrote it does not understand what a decision-making system is and how the cabinet works.”

Sources close to Ya’alon said the Shapira’s conclusions regarding the tunnels are “divorced from reality.” They said Israel has been dealing with the issue of the tunnels and devoting major resources to it for years. There were “endless meetings in all the relevant forums, including the cabinet,” the sources said. “Anyone who claims not to have been aware of the threat and work on it is simply lying to the public. Anybody who touched the subject realized how serious the threat and any attempt to depict this differently is charlatan in nature. The draft report is full of inaccuracies, to put it mildly and suffers from a lack of clear understanding of the actions and the system.”

Failure to address threat of Hamas' tunnels

According to senior officials familiar with Shapira’s draft report, it cites serious failures in the army’s preparations for an extensive conflict in Gaza and in particular for the threat of attack tunnels.

Officials who have read the report said the findings revealed that discussions by senior politicians about the Gaza Strip and the tunnels in the months preceding Operation Protective Edge followed two separate tracks: The first was small meetings called by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon with senior defense officials, in which the subject was discussed in depth. The second was meetings in which the rest of the inner cabinet was present, and the subject was discussed only in general terms.

In his testimony to Shapira, Netanyahu said that the security cabinet was aware of the tunnel threat. However, officials familiar with the draft report said that the comptroller expressed doubts about Netanyahu’s statements and what that “awareness” consisted of.

For example, Shapira revealed that the issue of the tunnels came up in the annual briefing by IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to the cabinet in February 2014. Kochavi told the ministers of the threat of tunnels, but presented the information as part of a broader survey that included dozens of other subjects.

Officials familiar with the draft report said that the comptroller discovered that in the more restricted meetings that Netanyahu and Ya’alon held with senior defense officials, the tunnels were presented as a real strategic threat.

Another source familiar with the report said that it had earthshattering political potential. “It is more severe than the Winograd Commission report after the Second Lebanon War, among other things because they should have learned lessons and they did not,” the source said.

Meretz chairwoman Zahava Galon said: “The prime minister acted like an autocrat and ignored the fact that powers of government, even in an emergency, are not his alone but belong to the cabinet and the government. Criticism by Netanyahu’s people of the comptroller is another attempt to hurt the gatekeepers like the comptroller, the supervisor of monopolies and others, in order to weaken them and ignore their existence.”

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