Netanyahu attempted to launch military operation in Gaza before election

After being forced to abruptly end a Likud rally in Ashkelon under threat of rockets, the prime minister held phone talks with cabinet members pushing for military action.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
September 17, 2019 18:01
1 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an army exercise in the north on June 19th, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an army exercise in the north on June 19th, 2019. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to lead the nation to a hurried military operation in Gaza following his abrupt departure from a pro-Likud rally in Ashkelon last week, Maariv reported on Monday.

According to journalist Ben Caspit's report, Netanyahu held phone conversations with cabinet members at about 2 a.m. on the night of September 10. The talks were held without the involvement of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and the head of Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) Nadav Argaman.

The prime minister ordered a series of strikes that would, if carried out, almost certainly have led to a series of retaliatory attacks by Hamas against Israel just days before the country was due for another election. According to Channel 13 news and Haaretz, which broke the story on Sunday, Netanyahu was told by the IDF that "such actions mean going to war, and going to war requires the approval of the security cabinet."

Netanyahu, faced with this demand, simply called up his security cabinet ministers at 2 a.m. and demanded their consent, which was given. The phone conversations did not include security officials who would have offered the elected officials the larger context of a military campaign and presented their opinion. 

The premier then embarked on an official state visit to Russia and told the IDF to carry out his decision, yet top army commanders refused to lead the nation to war on the basis of a verbal consent given over the phone without the involvement of non-political experts.

It was the IDF that informed Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit of the situation, and it was Mandelblit who informed Netanyahu that verbal consent over the phone is not enough to take Israel to war. To do so, he told Netanyahu, the cabinet must gather for an official meeting and top officials from the IDF and other security branches must be allowed to present their analysis of how the decisions offered will effect the nation.

It was at this point, with days before the elections,that Netanyahu relented.

"The prime minister had lost all restraints," a top army official told Maariv on condition of anonymity. "He is driving over the cliff in the car that we all must sit in," added another.


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