Ahead of the expected critical report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira into Operation Protective Edge on Tuesday, former senior IDF officials and cabinet ministers have dismissed a number of expected findings, defending the actions of the IDF and intelligence services.
Speaking to military reporters on Sunday, a former senior security cabinet minister criticized the report and it’s expected conclusions, saying that they focused only on the threat posed by Hamas tunnels and nothing else. According to him, he tried to dissuade Shapira from writing the report saying that “it was all political.”
“They came with questions about one thing, and ignored everything else. There were ministers playing politics during cabinet meetings during the operation and that is a major fault.”
Pointing a finger at both current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who wanted to re-occupy the Gaza Strip but didn’t attend any discussions regarding the threat of the tunnels, the former senior security cabinet minister also harshly criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett, accusing him of trying to have undermined both he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Operation Protective Edge
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, both during the operation and after, has been highly critical of the conduct by the Defense Ministry, saying that the threat posed by the tunnels were not taken seriously enough.
Transcripts from the cabinet meetings during the operation, which were obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth
in January, show Bennett had called for a more aggressive campaign, opposing recommendations made by then-defense minister Moshe Ya'alon and then IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who were calling for a more restrained response.
“It was obvious from the start that Bennett was going to take the tunnel issue and use it as a political campaign,” he said, adding that Bennett had approached soldiers with knitted kippahs (religious Zionist) in Givati Brigade and learned about military buildup outside Gaza, something he said created “chaos” as he then came to the cabinet and offered suggestions that were of a tactical nature.
“A minister needs to speak not to low ranking soldiers, but higher ranking officers. If not he doesn’t get the full picture, and he shouldn’t be bringing that to the cabinet” he said.
According to him, he had never seen such a cabinet before. “I’ve never once seen such a cabinet full of ministers who acted this way. Why is everyone trying to deal with tactics, that’s not their job, their job is to think of things above the tactical level,” he said.
The former senior security cabinet minister also argued that cabinet ministers ignored efforts to educate themselves on security related matters. For example, less than half attended a classified intelligence seminar with top air force and intelligence officers for all security cabinet ministers that he had offered.
The former senior security cabinet minister dismissed the charges that the IDF did not have a complete intelligence picture of threats from Gaza ahead of the war, but admitted that there were things that were missed.
“We are raised to believe that intelligence is always 100% right, but we can never have intelligence which is 100% right. There are times that we miss things.”
The report is said to condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon for failing to prepare for the threat posed by Hamas tunnels from Gaza, despite the intelligence that they received.
On Sunday Israeli Construction Minister and the former head of the IDF's Southern Command, Yoav Galant slammed Ya'alon and Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, saying that they failed.
"The soldiers fought like heroes during Protective Edge," Galant tweeted. "Ya'alon and former Chief of staff Benny Gantz failed. They were negligent and careless. They hesitated to use force. And now, they are hiding behind the cabinet."
Galant, who was on track to be chosen as Chief of Staff in 2010, lost out to Gantz after his candidacy was sabotaged when he became embroiled in a scandal involving illegal construction on his house.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Gantz, speaking over the weekend at a conference for veterans of “Havatzalot,” an elite intelligence program, with Yedioth Ahronoth
reporter Isaac Dabush, also dismissed the findings of the report, and insisted that contrary to talk about failed intelligence gathering, especially regarding the threat of Hamas tunnels, the intelligence was sound.
“It is impossible to implement a deployment and succeed in wars without intelligence. During Protective Edge, there was intelligence that was excellent, terrific, accessible, but not always perfect. I am ready to go to the next campaign with the same intelligence that we had in the last one,” he said.
Standing up for Military Intelligence and it’s chief at the time of the war, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, he said that “Aviv Kochavi is the best Military Intelligence chief that the IDF has had in the past 40 years. All the criticism that is voiced in the [comptroller] report about this — I don’t accept it.”
Taking to his Facebook page on Saturday night Ya'alon said that “there are those who leak, and there are those who fight.”
“In the next week, you’re going to hear a lot about Protective Edge. Whoever was playing politics in the cabinet during the war, will continue to do so this week. They’ll say that we didn’t know, that we didn’t tell them, that we didn’t report to them. And the biggest lie of all? That we weren’t prepared and we lost. That’s nonsense.”
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