Bennett Slams Gantz: His Conduct During 2014 Gaza War Nearly Spelled Disaster for Israel

Minister slams political rival for dragging feet on destruction of Hamas tunnels, saying if cabinet followed then military chief's lead hundreds would have died

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 27, 2019.
Abir Sultan/Reuters

Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed former Israeli army chiefs and political rivals Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming April 9 election, saying their conduct in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014 could have spelled disaster for the country.

"If we [members of the security cabinet] had listened to Benny Gantz and Ya'alon in 2014 during Protective Edge, we would have woken up to a terrible catastrophe in the western Negev of dozens of kidnaps into Gaza, hundreds murdered in a terror attacks the likes of which we've never seen," Bennett, the chairman of the right-wing Hayamin Hehadash party, said on Israeli army radio.

>> The general coming to end the Netanyahu era

Both Gantz and Ya'alon plan to run in the election, each leading his own party, with Gantz expected to formally declare his candidacy for prime minister Tuesday, announcing the platform of the party he registered in December, Hosen L’Yisrael.

The event will be held at the Tel Aviv Convention Center at 8 P.M., in the hopes that television newscasts will broadcast it live.

Bennett was referring to the destruction of Hamas' terror tunnels penetrating Israel, and said the two intended to "postpone, so long as they don't have to do anything and not destroy 30 terror tunnels which were ripe and ready."

"Both Gantz and Ya'alon did everything they could not to act, not destroy the tunnels, for a thousand different reasons… Only on July 17, 18 days later, after endless very poor attempts by Israel to reach a ceasefire without destroying the tunnels, only then do we go on an operation to destroy the tunnels," he said.

Speaking of Gantz, Bennett said they had a deep and essential difference in perception. "The notion he had all these years is the notion of a tie, it doesn't strive for victory, as expressed in Protective Edge and other places. He strives, as they say, to break even." Bennett said the operation could have been much shorter, "five days instead of 50, if we came with an offensive approach."

In campaign videos published last week, Gantz took pride in the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, bombing 6,231 targets in the Gaza Strip and killing 1,364 "terrorists" as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.

Contrary to Gantz’s earlier intentions, it appears that Hosen L’Yisrael will not complete a planned unification with Ya'alon's Telem party before the official launch. There are still disagreements over how the places on the slate would be apportioned, especially in the event of an additional agreement with Yair Lapid or Orli Levi-Abekasis.