State Watchdog's Final Gaza War Report to Be Distributed

Near-final version of politically charged document expected to criticize security cabinet of summer 2014; officials given two weeks to respond.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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An IDF tank during the 2014 war in Gaza.
An IDF tank during the 2014 war in Gaza.Credit: Elihau Hershkovitz
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira is expected Thursday to submit the almost-final draft of his report on the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict – known as Operation Protective Edge – to the prime minister and other ministers and figures who were in office at the time.

The report, which is expected to be critical of the security cabinet’s performance during the war, could be politically explosive and is likely to increase the existing tension among the ministers.

A Jerusalem official told Haaretz that the comptroller is expected to give the individuals he inspected a week to two weeks to respond before distributing the report, which is expected to be released before the end of December.

Classified “top secret,” the report runs 550 pages. It deals with the threat of the tunnels from Gaza, the decision making process in the security cabinet and its performance before and during the war, and the home front’s preparedness. It also deals with the extent to which the recommendations of the Turkel Commission – which examined the compatibility of the IDF’s activity with international law – were implemented.

The report’s almost-final version has been sent to the IDF’s Information Security Department and to the Defense Ministry’s director of security. The two were asked to make sure the report doesn’t include details that should be deleted and which even the secret subcommittee of the Knesset’s State Control Committee and the Intelligence sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee aren’t cleared to see.

After the report’s final draft is distributed, these committees will decide what parts of it may be seen by the public.

The officials due to receive the report’s near-final draft Thursday include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was foreign minister at the time of the conflict, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, former Justice Minister MK Tzipi Livni, former Fnance Minister MK Yair Lapid and senior IDF officers.

At the beginning of May the comptroller issued the draft report pertaining to the security cabinet’s activity during the conflict. Part of the draft, which was published in Haaretz, castigated Netanyahu, former Ya’alon and Gantz.

The draft said the three ran most of the war’s moves themselves, while compartmentalizing the cabinet and concealing a large part of the details from the rest of the ministers. The draft said that in the months leading up to the operation, the tunnel threat was presented to the cabinet only in a general manner. The three were also blasted for lack of preparedness and adequate plans to deal with the threat posed by the tunnels.

The leaked details caused tension among the ministers and led to a confrontation between Netanyahu and Ya’alon, who rejected the criticism and lashed out at the comptroller personally, and Bennett, who saw the draft as corroboration for his criticism during the war and afterward.

The release of the nearly final draft Thursday and the report’s impending publication are likely to renew the confrontations among the ministers and raise the tension in the coalition.

Since May, Netanyahu, Gantz and other officials have responded to the comptroller in writing. Netanyahu and a few others asked for meetings with the comptroller to explain their position and acts and avert at least some of the criticism aimed at them in the report.

In recent months Netanyahu has launched a campaign to explain the management of the 2014 Gaza war and the preparedness for it, with an emphasis on the tunnels issue. Netanyahu held about 20 meetings in which he briefed media outlets and forums including hundreds of journalists. Every meeting lasted several hours and included a presentation of the debates before the war dealing with the tunnels, details about the decision making during the operation and even quotes from relevant cabinet sessions.

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