(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi rejected allegations that he intentionally wrote a report on Operation Protective Edge that cleared the government of blame for any problems, saying on Thursday that the prime minister did not know about the document.
Hanegbi wrote the report, which was leaked to Channel 2 News, as Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman. The committee held 87 meetings in the months following 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and began working on a highly critical report. After the 2015 election, the meetings were stopped, because Hanegbi said no one in the government was interested in it.
This week, after he became a minister, Hanegbi submitted the report on Hamas’s terrorist tunnels from Gaza into Israel in his capacity as chairman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence. MKs in the subcommittee were surprised to receive copies of the report, as they said they did not sign off on it.
During Protective Edge, on July 17, 2014, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa by the Gaza border and were stopped by IDF soldiers, two of whom were killed. Several other tunnels were discovered during the operation and four more soldiers were killed in related combat.
Hanegbi’s report, according to Channel 2, clears politicians and the IDF of an intelligence failure on the issue of tunnels.
MKs in the subcommittee accused Hanegbi, a Likud minister, of using the report to clear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the blame for political reasons, and to protect Netanyahu from the State Comptroller’s Report on the operation.
Hanegbi denied the allegations to Army Radio, saying Netanyahu was not aware that he was writing the report.
The Likud minister also said he spent months working on the report and reviewed ministers’ and IDF officers’ remarks to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the year and a half before Protective Edge, finding that they made it very clear they knew of the tunnels threat and were working on intelligence and technological responses to it.
Hanegbi also accused Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah of leaking the report, saying that when he submitted the report to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, he wrote a letter to other subcommittee members telling them as much, and only Shelah asked to receive a copy of the report. A few minutes later, Hanegbi said, a Channel 2 reporter sent him and Edelstein questions on the topic.
“A member of the committee, with no shame, inaccurately leaks a document that was highly confidential,” Hanegbi lamented. “I wouldn’t have thought Ofer would do it.”
Shelah denied Hanegbi’s accusation, saying that “instead of dealing with the content of the report, to which Hanegbi had no answers, he’s decided to talk about how it got to the media... He is trying to sway the conversation from his misuse of his position as committee chairman to defend the prime minister.”