A Palestinian boy plays at a house that witnesses said was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in the east of Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite attempts by the opposition to portray Operation Protective Edge as a failure of the cabinet and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was a great success that deterred Hamas and brought stability to the region, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hangebi (Likud) said in a Knesset plenum discussion on Wednesday.
“We have not had such quiet borders since the Six Day War,” he said. “Due to our brave soldiers and their willingness to make sacrifices, we gained deterrence over Hamas that prevents them from drawing us into further escalation.”
The opposition, Hanegbi argued, by trying to slam the government without having any legitimate argument, proved the exact opposite of their claims.
“I know how it feels to be a part of the opposition, and I know how annoying it is for them when the government is successful. But the outcomes [of the operation] speak for themselves – we are witnessing a rising tide of citizens joining the settlements and the communities on the border of the Gaza Strip.”
Hanegbi then dismissed the notion that the tunnels were the most prominent issue during the operation. “It wasn’t that [tunnels] and neither were the Hamas drones or scuba divers – it was the rockets,” he said.
“Hamas invested a great fortune in trying to paralyze the normal day-to-day life in Israel by firing their rockets, but they failed. Thanks to the Iron Dome system we were able to save lives and make these rockets irrelevant. Out of some 4,500 rockets that were fired, about 3,800 didn’t even cross the border or exploded in open fields, and around 800 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Only several rockets made real damage.”
Meretz MK Michal Rozin, who initiated the discussion, blamed the cabinet for not trying to advance a diplomatic solution and warned that the next war is just around the corner.
“The public already knows it and you’re doing nothing, just waiting until the next round,” she said. “Only the IDF could save you from the diplomatic void that you have created, and you are using the military force because it is the only way you know. The comptroller’s report made it clear – it indicated that the biggest flaw [of the cabinet during the operation] was lack of a diplomatic strategy.”
In his first reaction to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report, former IDF chief of general staff Benny Gantz on Wednesday defended his role in the operation, while advising ministers to not deflect blame for their own mistakes.
“They should not flee responsibility,” Gantz told Channel 2. “I don’t flee from responsibility. I bear it with pride. I don’t recommend to anyone at the political level to brush responsibility from themselves. It’s not fitting. Everyone should examine himself.”
Gantz said that when he has a mission, he does not attempt to shift responsibility up or down or “to say we didn’t know or hear.”
He said that at the end of the operation, every tunnel the IDF knew of was either destroyed, neutralized or harmed and that Hamas was successfully dealt a blow.
Gantz was reluctant to attack politicians by name but questioned criticism from Construction Minister and former IDF deputy chief of staff Yoav Gallant (Kulanu), who lost the top army post to Gantz. He also disagreed with Shapira’s assessment that the tunnels would not have been destroyed without pressure on the security cabinet from Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
“Are there lessons that have to be learned? Yes. I don’t accept that every difficulty becomes a failure,” he said.
On Tuesday, Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli submitted a letter with the signatures of 40 lawmakers to the Knesset speaker to summon the prime minister to a discussion on this issue. The speaker is required by statute to do so within 21 days upon receipt of such a letter.
“According to the publications so far, the severe findings of the report are indicating a failure of the prime minister and the cabinet he led,” the letter read.
“In addition, it shows a lack of a proper diplomatic policy with Gaza... The prime minister must account for his failures in providing security to the citizens of Israel.”
Also on Tuesday, Zionist Union MKs Omer Bar-Lev and Stav Shaffir asked State Control Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) to establish a commission on the matter. In their submission they wrote: “It is impossible that the people who led to such failures will not bear the public and personal responsibility.”