Ex-deputy defense minister says criticism of negligent handling of Hamas tunnels led to ouster

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 28, 2014 20:30

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fired Danon on July 15 following statements the MK released that Netanyahu saw as overly critical of his handling of Operation Protective Edge.

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Danny Danon

Danny Danon. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Likud MK Danny Danon lost his job as deputy defense minister because he could not stay silent following intelligence reports on tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip to southern communities, he revealed for the first time to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fired Danon on July 15 following statements the MK released that Netanyahu saw as overly critical of his handling of Operation Protective Edge. Danon issued the statements after a security cabinet decision to accept an Egyptian- brokered cease-fire with Hamas that preceded the IDF’s limited ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

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“From the information I was privy to as deputy defense minister, it was clear to me the tunnel threat was serious and imminent,” Danon said on Sunday.

“The approach of avoiding the threat or delaying dealing with it was unacceptable to me. The minute the cabinet approved this poor decision – the current government’s worst – I decided to speak out strongly in order to change it.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s claim that his actions were the impetus for the IDF’s operations against the attack tunnels angered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and spurred a clash between Ya’alon and Bennett.

Sources close to Ya’alon were no less perturbed by Danon crediting his own influence on the IDF operation in retrospect.

“The only information he might have received came from directory assistance from a telephone operator,” a source close to Ya’alon said sarcastically.

“I doubt he saw anything special.”

Netanyahu said in weekend interviews that he only accepted the ceasefire proposal because he knew Hamas would violate it, and that would give Israel international legitimacy for the ground incursion targeting the tunnels.

“I decided we could not take such a gamble,” Danon said. “What would have happened if the Hamas would have accepted the cease-fire and 100 warriors would have entered Israel through tunnels on Rosh Hashana? They would have kidnapped dozens of Israelis into Gaza.”

Danon rejected allegations that he used his criticism of the operation in the Gaza Strip to gain political points and boost his career. He said that in a Likud that has had only four chairmen in its history, challenging its leader was a significant political risk.

“I am sure I lost support politically in the party,” he said. “But one day the tunnels will be investigated, and people will have to give answers about what they knew and when. I think I will be remembered as being on the right side of history.”

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