Questions for General Galant

The Ministry of Defense was under orders to purchase special equipment that would have revealed Palestinian tunnels. So what happened?

tunnel blast 88 (photo credit: )
tunnel blast 88
(photo credit: )
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz took the right step when he appointed Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Giora Eiland to investigate how it happened that Hamas terrorists managed to surprise the Israeli army this week in the attack on the Kerem Shalom post, in which two IDF soldiers were killed and a third, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was abducted. Eiland was asked to specifically investigate whether the Shin Bet issued any warning of an impending attack. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) maintains that they did. IDF officers have responded that the warning was too "general" in nature and did not focus on a specific danger. The cooperation and mutual trust between the IDF and the Shin Ben are crucial to the war on terror. Israel's greatest successes in its war on suicide bombers are the result of this cooperation, which has enabled Jerusalem to target and kill terrorist leaders and halt the offensive of suicide bombings in time. That is why the investigation launched by the Chief of Staff is so appropriate, because it is aimed at preventing the development of tension between the Shin Bet and the IDF. Full trust and cooperation between these two major bodies is crucial in the war on Palestinian and Iranian terror facing us. The intelligence the Shin Bet provided the IDF with was excellent. It stated that Palestinians had managed to dig a tunnel hundreds of meters long in the Kerem Shalom area, and that they were planning a surprise attack on IDF soldiers there. The tragic results of the Hamas attack prove just how precise the Shin Bet intelligence was: It managed to warn the IDF despite the shroud of secrecy under which the Hamas terrorists and their ilk work. Now we are hearing anonymous "sources" among the IDF top brass claiming that the warning was too "general." As if they expected the Shin Bet to give the IDF the exact route of the tunnel too. THIS IS of course nonsense. If there was - and there was - an intelligence warning that Egypt was planning to attack Israel on October 6, 1973, as indeed occurred, that should have been sufficient for the IDF to go into high alert, even without knowing exactly how the war would break out. Mindful of the disparities in the two situations, this case is no different. The Shin Bet gave warning that the Palestinians were about to attack via a tunnel. What did the top officers do with this excellent warning provided by the Shin Bet? A senior IDF officer said that the tunnel that the Palestinians built was 10 meters deep and that the IDF does not have the equipment needed to uncover tunnels of that depth. Eiland will have to look into this aspect of the matter as well. OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant will be a key witness. He likes to have his picture taken and has a penchant for hollow mantras about how he will protect Sderot, as the Kassam rockets continue to fall. Now Galant will have to explain to Eiland not only what he did and how he responded in the wake of the Shin Bet's warning, but also how the IDF reached a situation in which it lacks the equipment necessary to uncover terror tunnels - even after the Shin Bet provided it with a specific warning about just such a tunnel. I myself, in this column, have repeatedly warned of the danger of the terror tunnels prepared by the Palestinians in order to continue their war on Israel even after the uprooting of Israeli settlements. In other words, IDF officers on the battlefield itself knew and warned of the Palestinian tunnels that no one can uncover. GENERAL GALANT can tell Eiland about another matter too. Galant once served as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's military secretary. He was present in the Prime Minister's Office when Sharon was told about heavy mechanical equipment that can dig and uncover tunnels at a depth of over 15 meters. In Galant's presence, Sharon immediately ordered the director-general of the defense ministry Major-General (reserves) Amos Yaron to buy it. Perhaps Galant can also tell Eiland how Sharon's orders were scuttled and undermined, how Sharon was given false reports in order to sabotage the unambiguous order he gave in December 2004 to "Bring the machine!" It is a shocking story. If Sharon's orders had been followed, the IDF would have had the means to try to uncover the terror tunnel after the Shin Bet gave its latest warning. Perhaps Eiland won't have the time to investigate the enormity of the scandal for which senior defense ministry officials are primarily responsible, followed by senior IDF officers. AS THE IDF carries the battle into Gaza, I received this week an invitation to a special gathering in Latrun to mark 50 years since the parachute jump of the 890th Paratroopers regiment east of the Suez Canal. I was of course happy to be remembered as having been among the paratroopers who jumped there. But it reminded me of how Israel explained the jump in the Mitla Pass in its official statement: "Because of Egypt's support for terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip." At the time, the IDF was but a small and poorly equipped army.