Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been falsely accused of not dealing with the military threat from the tunnels that Hamas dug between Gaza and Israel’s southern border prior to the war during the summer of 2014, his office said late Tuesday night.
"Claims that Israel was unprepared to meet the tunnel threat are without foundation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in response to charges to that effect which were leveled by Netanyahu’s political opponents, Bayit Yehudi Party head Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid.
Bennett and Lapid have spoken out in advance of the publication of a state comptroller’s report on the matter that is expected to be highly critical of Netanyahu’s actions with regard to the tunnels.
Sources who have seen the report have charged that the cabinet had not been properly briefed on the threat prior to the war, also known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
Such charges are “false,” the PMO said, as it listed the actions Netanyahu took to defend the country from the tunnels.
“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.
“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,” the PMO said.
“The Defense Minister, IDF Chief-of-Staff, GOC Southern Command, head of the IDF Engineering Branch, head of the IDF Technology Branch and field commanders were among the participants in these meetings,” the PMO said.
“At these discussions, Prime Minister Netanyahu directed that operational and technological solutions be advanced to meet the tunnels threat,” the PMO said.
“On 3 July 2014, before the start of operations and two weeks before the ground incursion, the Prime Minister ordered the IDF to prepare for a ground incursion to neutralize the tunnels,” the PMO said.
“It is regrettable that there are those who have misled the public on substantive security issues when the facts are unequivocal and well known to those who are distorting them,” the PMO said.
The threat of Hamas or other Palestinian militants entering Israel from Gaza through underground tunnels had existed for a long time prior to the 2014 war.
Gilad Schalit was kidnapped on the Gaza border in 2006 by Palestinian militants who made use of an underground tunnel. Still, Hamas only began using tunnel warfare in 2014, when its militants attempted multiple failed infiltrations into Israeli communities that bordered Gaza.