Israeli ministers spar over Hamas tunnel threat

Bennett and Livni continue their battle over the Gaza War in how they saw State Comptroller Joseph Shapira's report.

Hamas tunnel found in southern Gaza
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who faced off during Operation Protective Edge when they were both in the security cabinet, continued their battle over the Gaza War Tuesday in how they perceived State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report.
Bennett said he saw it as vindicating his point of view that a plan for destroying the tunnels needed to be prepared and only was made ready because he pushed for it.
In briefings given to Bayit Yehudi MKs and activists, he highlighted passages from the report indicating that the operation could have taken less time and fewer lives would have been lost had his advice been taken to send ground forces sooner to tunnel entrances in Gaza, rather than destroying buildings over them by air.
Livni said the tunnels were indeed a threat but they were not the only threat and were not the reason for the operation. She criticized Shapira for focusing only on the tunnels and downplaying other key issues.
“Steps should have been taken against the tunnels long before the operation that would have made the operation unnecessary,” she said. “Israel did not want this operation. Just like now, there are tunnels and there is no operation; that could have also happened before. During the operation, I said there must be a solution other than sending in troops, like an engineering solution. The IDF wasn’t ready with the non-military solutions being used now.”
Bennett’s associates pointed out that Shapira wrote that there was no engineering solution available, which made entering Gaza a necessity. He said he, too, wished there had been an engineering solution that would have made the invasion unnecessary.
Livni accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ministers on the Right of preventing the operation from being used as an opportunity to begin a diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority. She said Netanyahu and the ministers prevented an effort to seek a United Nations vote for Gaza rehabilitation in return for demilitarization and negotiations between Israel and the PA without preconditions. Bennett deflected blame and said he supported such a diplomatic maneuver.
She expressed satisfaction that she blocked American efforts to adopt a cease-fire proposal pushed by the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers who were negotiating on behalf of Hamas.
“There were absurd demands that we pay Hamas for them stopping to fire at us with a Gaza port or anything else,” she said.
But Livni lamented that lamented that the operation led to indirect talks between Israel and Hamas that were a victory for the terror organization that sought international legitimacy for its control over Gaza.
“Looking back it was a huge missed opportunity,” she said.