Knesset panel okays release of bombshell 2014 Gaza war report

Parts of the report are due to remain classified for national security reasons.

By
January 29, 2017 11:18
4 minute read.
IDF soldiers storm a target during the ground incursion into Gaza

IDF soldiers storm a target during the ground incursion into Gaza. (photo credit: IDF)

The Knesset State Control’s classified subcommittee announced on Sunday that it had approved publishing of the State Comptroller’s Report on the 2014 Gaza war.

Parts of the report would remain classified for national security reasons, the announcement also said.

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According to pundits, the report is expected to be a political bombshell for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in terms of his reputation as “Mr. Security,” with consequences ranging from eventually bringing down the government to being another shot against his standing as rivals wait for a moment to strike.

Netanyahu’s biggest and recent critics regarding the report have been Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, but at earlier stages Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar have also slammed the prime minister.

No information has yet been provided about when the report will be released to the public, but a source indicated that the subcommittee must still review two additional sub-reports before a date is set, and that could still take several days or even weeks.

Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari said the decision to release the report was an important moment for the Jewish people and for the families of soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge).

“We have a responsibility as public representatives to work in a professional manner to publish the conclusions of the State Comptroller’s Report... which I hope will be studied, and that lessons will be learned for the functioning of the security cabinet in any military event in the future,” she said.

MK Karin Elharar, the chairwoman of the Knesset State Control Committee, said the decision had put an end to the two-and-a-half-year wait of bereaved families, residents of the Gaza border region and all of Israel’s citizens.

“The next and decisive stage is for the government to take on board the lessons and conclusions of these reports, otherwise all their findings will be for naught,” said Elharar.

Last Tuesday, the subcommittee decided to postpone its decision about whether to release the report on Operation Protective Edge.

According to leaked portions of the report, the comptroller first slams Netanyahu; Moshe Ya’alon, who was defense minister from 2013 to 2016; and former Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff from 2011 to 2015, for failing to warn the security cabinet about intelligence they had from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) about the possibility of war with Hamas.

The leaked report says the trio passed on the Shin Bet’s warnings once the country was already at war.

In transcripts of security cabinet meetings at the start Operation Protective Edge published by Yediot Aharonot, then-chief of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told the cabinet that there were overwhelming indications that Hamas was not prepared to go to war.

Next, the report attacks the trio for failing to hold serious security cabinet meetings about the Hamas tunnel threat, holding only one serious meeting on the issue, in March 2014, four months before the start of the conflict.

Even once the war started, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira allegedly says that Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz reportedly kept most of the key decisions and details to themselves, not sharing information with the security cabinet.

In another portion of the leaked transcripts, Ya’alon appears to brush off repeated requests from Bennett to see contingency plans for ground operations and destroying Hamas tunnels. At the same time, the report is said to slam some of the security cabinet members as not sufficiently educating themselves on war issues in order to properly fulfill their duties.

A follow-up report by former National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror recommended that the council provide greater, continual and dedicated support for security cabinet ministers to ensure they are fully apprised on all key issues.

Shapira reportedly also blasts the three top military policy makers over mistakes that led to extending the operation in the Gaza Strip unnecessarily.

He said this occurred because of a communications disconnect between top military commanders and political officials on the one hand, and commanders in the field.

Sources close to Netanyahu have responded that there is no resemblance between the leaks and what is in the actual Comptroller’s Report.

The sources have said Netanyahu defined the tunnels as a central threat long before Operation Protective Edge, and directed the defense establishment to deal with them.

According to the sources, the leaks have distorted the report’s content, and were offered by people with vested interests, including “irresponsible politicians who were cabinet members, who know the truth and prefer to falsify it to make political points.”

“Operation Protective Edge was managed responsibly and with good judgment, and it delivered Hamas the most difficult blow it has ever received,” the sources said. “The period since Operation Protective Edge was the quietest for the communities near the Gaza Strip since 2000.”

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.


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