IDF FORCES operate inside the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The security cabinet was informed of all major threats and issues during the 2014 Gaza war, Mossad Director and former National Security Council chief Yossi Cohen told the Knesset State Control Committee on Sunday, contradicting the state comptroller’s recent report.
The report had slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a range of officials and Cohen, who was NSC chief at the time, for failing to fully explain to the cabinet the scope of the tunnels threat, the disastrous Gaza humanitarian situation and alternative options to Operation Protective Edge.
Cohen told the committee that every member of the cabinet had the ability to ask at any moment for information and there was no subject that was not known to the ministers.
“There is an Israeli strategy for the Gaza Strip,” he said. “There is an obsession regarding the issue of alternative options. After we decide to go in a certain direction, the question of alternative options is already finished and sometimes there are no alternative options, unless there is a major strategic change in the overall situation.”
Operation Protective Edge
Here, Cohen was responding to and zeroing in on a major comptroller’s criticism that the war may have been avoidable if the government had acted to improve the economic situation in Gaza sufficiently to lower the domestic pressure on Hamas.
Despite Cohen’s contradicting the comptroller, his rhetoric was substantially more respectful and introspective than the attacks the comptroller has faced from Netanyahu and other top security officials.
“As NSC chief, I did my best, however, I certainly still made mistakes,” he explained to the committee. “I am not in a position to attack the report or quotes from it since as Mossad director, I am in the position of oversight, and understand its importance.
“I look straight into the eyes of the families of the fallen and say to them that every lesson will be learned in order to improve in anticipating the next conflict,” Cohen added.
Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar said Netanyahu and top security officials should carefully read the report and respond directly to its criticisms. She also pressed the prime minister to appoint a permanent NSC chief.
Since Cohen left the position over a year ago, one candidate for NSC chief was disqualified by a criminal probe, while interim NSC chief Yaakov Nagel has refused to accept a permanent appointment multiple times.
Elharar also said the government should accept the recommendations by a commission led by former NSC chief Yaakov Amidror to invest more resources in education and empowering all security cabinet ministers – not just the prime minister.
Top comptroller security official Brig.-Gen. Yossi Beinhorn responded to Cohen and critics of the report, saying: “We checked the process by which decisions were made and the information that was presented to the decision- makers. It was noteworthy the absence of a discussion of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.”
He added that the report had uncovered that Netanyahu and others had not properly prepared the security cabinet for the various military threats the IDF would face nor had the cabinet had the opportunity to strategically direct the IDF.