Report on 2014 Gaza conflict finds fault in IDF, Israeli cabinet’s conduct

 

 

An Israel Defense Forces soldier overlooks at Hamas-built terror tunnel in Gaza in July 2014, during Operation Protective Edge. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014 was plagued by a lack in intelligence and operational plans, technological deficiencies, and a prolonged failure by both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the country’s diplomatic-security cabinet to deal with the threat posed by Hamas’s grid of terror tunnels, Israeli State Comptroller Yosef Shapira wrote in a review of the operation.

The report, released Tuesday, reviewed the work of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government starting after the abduction and murder of three Israeli youths in Gush Etzion in June 2014, and continuing through that summer’s 50-day military campaign in Gaza. 

The review examined thousands of official documents by the government, the IDF, the Shin Bet security agency and the National Security Council, and gathered testimonies from hundreds of people involved in the decision-making processes during the operation.

Shapira’s report states that the IDF neutralized or destroyed only half of Hamas’s terror tunnels, “leaving the rest either damaged or still usable.…This means that a main operational objective—neutralizing or destroying the offensive—was only partially met, and the IDF thus failed to complete its mission.”

The “effective and widespread use the enemy made of the tunnels and its defense systems surprised the military and underscored the understanding that this will be a characteristic of future conflicts,” according to the report.

At the time, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz had led Netanyahu to endorse aerial strikes against the Hamas tunnels, believing this would spare the IDF a ground offensive. But the report said this was an error in judgment, as Ya’alon and Gantz knew that bombing the entrances to the tunnels would impede the work of the ground forces moving in later to destroy the tunnels—and that turned out to be the case.

Furthermore, members of the diplomatic-security cabinet were not properly briefed on the decision to launch a ground operation in Gaza, Shapira found. Cabinet ministers did not possess the necessary knowledge to participate in discussions over the operation, the report said.

In response to Shapira’s review, Ya’alon said the report “evaluated partial aspects of a complicated operation. It ignores wider considerations because it fell hostage to the interests of politicians who fed the comptroller with false information that marred the examination.”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, defended the outcome of Operation Protective Edge.

“This quiet in the region is unprecedented since the 1967 Six-Day War,” the prime minister said. “The most significant and real lessons of Operation Protective Edge are already being implemented fundamentally, responsibly and quietly. These lessons are not in the comptroller’s report.”

Posted on March 1, 2017 .