The state comptroller’s report on the 2014 war in Gaza was unveiled on Tuesday. It contained no shocking surprises. Most of the information about the conduct of the army and the politicians had already been made public by the media during the events themselves, and the known failures were roundly criticized and analyzed.
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It is hoped that the Israel Defense Forces was not waiting for the release of the report to correct the deficiencies. Meanwhile, the political struggle over responsibility has already become an arena for battles that reached their ugly climax just before the report was published.
The importance of the report is in the well-known conclusion, the formal identification of the failures and mistakes, and as a guidebook for future military campaigns. It recommends no action against individuals and imposes no criminal responsibility, as if it was the finger of God that directed the IDF to embark on the operation and the finger of God that sabotaged its military, political and moral conduct.
Sixty-eight soldiers, five Israeli civilians and a Thai worker were killed on the Israeli side during the operation. More than 2,000 people, over a third of whom were civilians, among them 369 children, were killed on the Palestinian side. Tens of thousands of Gazans remain without a roof over their heads to this day. Schools, mosques and clinics were destroyed, Gaza is still under a cruel closure, and the threat of another military conflict has yet to be lifted. This is the sorry outcome of Operation Protective Edge, which was born out of revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three teenage Jewish boys.
The situation created in Gaza as a result of the war did not interest the report’s authors. It focuses on the broad and particularly frustrating chapter on the tunnels. And all the operation’s “heroes,” who have been busy over the past few days slinging mud on one another, are concerned only about whom the arrows will be aimed at and what political/personal price, if any, they will have to pay.
Apparently it is the opinion of State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, and that of senior IDF officers, that policy and strategy were completely in order, and it was only implementation that was faulty. The question of whether the members of the cabinet received a proper report of the background and the threat, the risks and the possible outcomes, is much more important to them than evaluating the wisdom of embarking on the operation and the soundness of adopting the concept of wholesale destruction as a tool of deterrence.
The report does not suggest how to rectify the political and strategic eclipse. But the conclusion that glimmers from among its pages is that as long as the government and the army stick to a scorched-earth policy, reject any attempt at a diplomatic solution and choke off some 2 million inhabitants in the Gaza Strip, they are efficiently preparing for the next round of violence there.
But these conflicts are not a matter of fate; they have a solution and there are humane alternatives by which to maintain control on the ground until a comprehensive solution is found. That is the effort the government must now make.