Senior officials who have read the revised version of the State Comptroller’s Report on the 2014 Gaza tunnel threat said Thursday that the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “intensified significantly.”
According to the sources, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has honed his criticism to focus on the cabinet – specifically Netanyahu and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Shapira appears to credit Education Minister Naftali Bennett for raising the need to take action against the tunnels and sides with his claim that Netanyahu did not share the severity of the threat with the security cabinet before Operation Protective Edge.
The main turning point, the report highlights, was a cabinet meeting on June 30 just before Protective Edge began, during which Bennett pushed for an operation to eliminate the tunnel threat.
An earlier version of the draft report charged that “grave deficiencies” were found in Israel’s preparedness for the Hamas attack-tunnel threat that presaged the 2014 Gaza war.
The criticism of how the issue was handled is part of a wider review of war-making decisions before and during the operation. The review started shortly after the 50-day conflict ended with a cease-fire in September 2014.
Shapira’s criticism of Netanyahu is focused on two issues – that the prime minister did not share the tunnel threat with the security cabinet and did not properly prepare the country for the threat.
An earlier draft of the report focused its criticism on the IDF and particularly then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz and Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at the time head of Military Intelligence. The sources said that the updated report has toned down the criticism of the IDF.
The pending report has been a source of political tension within the government. Over the summer, Netanyahu held hours-long press briefings with the media during which he made his case and presented journalists with protocols from various cabinet meetings and security briefings during which the tunnel threat was discussed.
In July, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement rejecting the criticism, arguing that “claims Israel was unprepared to meet the tunnel threat are without foundation.”
“From 11 November 2013 until 3 July 2014, the tunnel threat was presented, in its full severity, at nine separate cabinet meetings. The protocols show this beyond all doubt,” the PMO said at the time. “Moreover, for six months prior to the operation, from 16 January 2013 until 9 July 2014, the prime minister convened six professional discussions on the issue of the tunnels.”