Coalition, opposition MKs draw battle lines in storm over leaked Gaza war report
Israeli soldiers seen at a deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 25, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli politicians across the spectrum weighed in Saturday on the state comptroller’s leaked draft report on the 2014 Gaza war, with coalition members defending the actions of the government, and opposition MKs calling for a state inquiry into the handling of the conflict.
According to the Hebrew media, the draft points to major flaws in the government’s handling of the 50-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. It reportedly accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of failing to update the security cabinet in real time of the imminent threat of war, and not discussing the grave threat of the terror group’s attack tunnels, according to Hebrew media sources who read it.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira sent the highly classified draft to Netanyahu, Ya’alon and other government officials earlier this week. The Israeli media began reporting on the contents of the draft on Thursday, to Shapira’s fury.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close confidant of Netanyahu, accused opponents of the prime minister of attempting to inflate the gravity of the comments within the draft.
“There is a great divide between the report and the drama made of it,” said Steinitz, according to Channel 2. “When the final report is released, one may surmise that it deals with important issues, but is not the strongest report ever published in Israel. Somebody wanted to create drama here and — because the report is confidential — they have succeeded, and the public does not see the real thing.”
The minister also dismissed reports that the comptroller accused the government of mishandling the conflict, arguing that it had brought two years of calm along the Gaza border.
“I sat in on every cabinet discussion, and I saw that the operation was managed extraordinarily well by the military and political leadership,” he said. “In my opinion, the operation was completed successfully. You can say the past two years have been very quiet since Protective Edge, and this operation has created a deterrent effect in the Gaza Strip border communities.”
The head of the left-wing Meretz party, meanwhile, on Saturday accused Netanyahu of placing himself above the law and any criticism of his performance and his failures.
Zehava Galon said that Netanyahu refused to set up a state inquiry after the conflict, Israel Radio reported. Instead, she said, the prime minister pledged to hold a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee probe, which he also torpedoed.
Galon said that the 2014 operation had achieved nothing, and placed the blame on Netanyahu, Ya’alon and ministers who she said sat beside them and remained silent despite knowing that information was being kept from them.
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli warned that if the reported criticisms were included in Shapira’s final report, a state inquiry would be necessary.
“For now we are talking about a draft, but if the serious issues that have been published also appear in the final report, the establishment of a commission of inquiry is inevitable,” Shmuli told a cultural event in Modiin, Channel 10 reported. “We have to give the residents of the south every reason to sleep peacefully at night.”
The row comes amid days of fresh clashes between Israel and Hamas across the Gaza border, as the IDF works to locate and eliminate attack tunnels leading into Israeli territory. Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh warned Friday that while the group does not wish to enter into a new conflict with Israel, it “will not tolerate” Israeli incursions into Gaza. Israel on Thursday announced that it had discovered one such tunnel, for the second time in weeks.