Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opening speech to the Knesset's winter session, October 27.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday appeared to try to appease tensions between the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) after the military criticize the domestic intelligence agency over the summer conflict in Gaza.
On Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz sent a letter of complaint to Netanyahu to protest the conduct of the Shin Bet and its director, Yoram Cohen, and warning of a crisis of trust between the two bodies, in an unprecedented display of division within the defense establishment.
The premier praised both the IDF and the Shin Bet and vowed that they would continue their joint conduct, "because the security of Israel's citizens is always placed above every controversy."
"The cooperation between them is the basic element of our national security and this cooperation has yielded significant results in the combat field during Operation Protective Edge," Netanyahu said during a tour of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) near Ben-Gurion Airport.
Earlier Thursday, in response to the IDF's scathing criticism
directed at the Shin Bet and claims by its members that an early warning was provided prior to the summer conflict, the domestic intelligence agency issued a clarification.
According to the Shin Bet's statement, it began receiving intelligence messages in January pointing to preparation and training by Hamas "ahead of a potential clash with Israel. It's appropriate to stress that at no point did Shin Bet members claim, including those interviewed for [the Channel 2 Uvda] program, that Shin Bet passed on a warning of a war with Hamas in July." From April onward, following new information, the Shin Bet put out a warning about Hamas intentions to carry out a big terror attack that could lead to a war.
"From the moment that intelligence about the attack was received, the IDF and Shin Bet placed all intelligence and operational systems on stand-by to thwart it. The preparations were carried out with full IDF-Shin Bet cooperation," the statement said.
Regarding the issue of attack tunnels, the Shin Bet said the defense establishment knew about the location of "a number of tunnels and their entrance shafts inside the Gaza Strip. However, the defense establishment did not have complete information about the route the tunnels took to infiltrate Israel, and about their exit shafts." An intensive effort was made to expose the tunnel threat from Gaza, the Shin Bet said. There was full cooperation with the IDF to save the lives of civilians and soldiers, it added.
"The IDF and Shin Bet will continue to work in full cooperation in the future to safeguard state security," the statement said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the heads of the IDF and the Shin Bet on Wednesday night, ordering them to settle their differences.
The meeting took place after the IDF chief of staff sent the letter of complaint to the prime minister.
Shin Bet sources have maintained that they provided the alert several months before the outbreak of hostilities in July.
The IDF, as well as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, have dismissed the idea that an advance intelligence alert was received in the months that led up to the conflict. Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.