The entrance to a tunnel exposed by the Israeli military is seen on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back on Monday against claims that his government was unprepared for the threat of cross-border tunnel raids from Gaza in the lead-up to the 2014 war, saying that they are “the opposite of the truth.”
In a defense of his handling of the tunnel threat – subject to a new State Comptroller’s Report slated to be released in the coming months – Netanyahu said that his cabinet held discussions on the issue as early as January 2013.
According to a leaked version of the report that appeared in May, Netanyahu, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and ex-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz faced criticism over the cabinet’s alleged lack of preparations on the tunnels.
Netanyahu’s comments came amid claims by senior government ministers – including Education Minister Naftali Bennett – that the security cabinet did not learn of the tunnel threat before Operation Protective Edge two years ago. Bennett has claimed that during the two years prior to the war, the security cabinet was informed only once about the tunnel threat.
But according to information seen by The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu did in fact convene eight cabinet meetings, between January 2013 and the eve of Operation Protective Edge, to specifically address and tackle the issue of tunnels.
The first of the series of meetings, held on January 6, 2013, saw the prime minister call for a solution to the tunnels, and a second meeting held in October of the same year included calls by Netanyahu for the defense establishment to develop tunnel detection techniques.
On November 11, 2013, Netanyahu held a cabinet meeting in which he asked that solutions then available against tunnels be improved significantly, and on February 9, 2014, he held a lengthy cabinet meeting on developing technological counter-tunnel means. Additional meetings were held right up until June 30, 2014, shortly before the start of the conflict.
During the meetings, Netanyahu issued warnings about the threat of Hamas murder squads intruding into Israeli communities. The cabinet meetings were attended by IDF representatives, the Shin Bet, and the National Security Council.
A section of an early draft of the report being prepared by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira leaked to the media in May, containing scathing criticisms of how the cabinet was allegedly kept in the dark over the tunnel threat.
The leak prompted attacks on the report by anonymous sources, leading comptroller spokesman Shlomo Raz to call into question the objectivity of those attacking the report, since they emanated mostly from political officials whom the report criticized.
Second, he said that all criticisms in the report of war policy- making are based on unimpeachable and objective data and documentary evidence, and he invited the report’s attackers to try to rebut its arguments instead of making mere ad hominem attacks.
Third, he said the attorney- general should investigate who illegally leaked the report and what their motivations were, saying it had not been leaked from his office.
Yonah Jeremy Bob, Herb Keinon, and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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