The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s efforts at parliamentary oversight following Operation Protective Edge were met with mixed responses from MKs Tuesday.
National Security Council head Yossi Cohen briefed the committee about what he called Israel’s achievements during the Gaza operation.
“Hamas was hit hard and none of its conditions for a cease-fire were met,” Cohen said at the beginning of the meeting. “Israel’s security forces, over 50 days, dealt Hamas the hardest blow it absorbed since it was founded [in 1987].”
According to Cohen, Hamas was surprised “time after time” by the IDF’s force and Israelis’ “iron society.”
“The international community, which gave us legitimacy during the operation, has a better understanding of the security reality that Israel is dealing with today. We will continue to work with the international community to change this reality,” he added.
Cohen also said that Israel continues to be prepared for all threats on all fronts.
Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi also spoke to the panel in a meeting that was entirely closed to the press.
Cohen and Kochavi’s testimony was part of the committee’s ongoing work, but will also be used for its examination of Operation Protective Edge.
Last month, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin announced that the panel would investigate the Gaza offensive as part of its responsibility to oversee the defense establishment’s activities.
Each of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittees – on Intelligence and Secret Services; Foreign Affairs and Public Diplomacy; and others – will investigate its own subject via past protocols and inviting relevant officials to testify. A new committee called “the forum,” made up of subcommittee chairmen, will integrate all the findings into one report, most of which will be confidential, but will have a section available to the public.
“The forum” held its first meeting on Tuesday.
MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), who will examine security for civilians on the entire home front, with a focus on Gaza border towns, said in the meeting that the committee’s investigation will be good for Israel’s security.
“The State of Israel, in the Middle East neighborhood, doesn’t have the privilege of taking its time. We have to look forward and improve quickly, while learning the lessons of the operation,” Yogev stated. “During Operation Protective Edge, we had the upper hand militarily and diplomatically, and I have no doubt that we will come out more aware, active and stronger.”
Yogev also opined that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon led the operation responsibly and with discretion.
However, on the Left, MKs accused Netanyahu of avoiding a real investigation and said the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is not enough.
According to MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), “Netanyahu is hiding behind Elkin. The farce of an investigation in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will not pass. It is a sad joke. This isn’t an investigation.
“The committee is completely political and holds meetings behind closed doors without public oversight and without enough representation for the opposition,” Horowitz said. “The goal is to whitewash the whole matter, and we will not let that happen.”
Horowitz called for an independent commission of inquiry to be formed to investigate the government and defense establishment’s actions as opposed to “a political deal between Netanyahu and the heads of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, who are right-wing extremists.”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said a commission led by a judge should examine Operation Protective Edge, like the Second Lebanon War.
“Any other forum, like the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is political, cannot do it,” he stated.
Shai pointed out that no minister reported to the committee why and how the operation came to an end.
“This causes serious harm to Israeli democracy and the Knesset’s job,” he said.