Analysis: The comptroller’s report provides a rare glimpse into what happened in the cabinet during the summer of 2014: There was Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, who kept asking questions, the prime minister who perceived it all as a hassle and a defense minister who had run out of words.

In recent days, reporters received a rare glimpse into political and military briefings from all the major players who served as members of the cabinet during Operation Protective Edge.

The recriminations were spiraling out of control. However, since the officials also realized the public would not tolerate such infantile behavior, they asked to remain anonymous.

In my opinion, a politician who wants to hurl accusations relating to human life toward another politician should face the public head-on, and not fear the spotlight or the backlash.

This introduction seemed appropriate as the comptroller’s report provided a rare opportunity to glance behind the scenes, to become privy to those moments in which political emotions came to a head during that fateful summer of 2014.

Bennett (L), Netanyahu, Ya'alon (Photo: Amit Shaabi, Motti Kimchi, Alex Kolmoisky)
Bennett (L), Netanyahu, Ya’alon (Photo: Amit Shaabi, Motti Kimchi, Alex Kolmoisky)


From various conversations with ministers who served as members of the cabinet during Protective Edge and at other times, no one really knows what the cabinet’s authorities are; when it should convene, and when it shouldn’t, which decisions are subject to its exclusive authority and which aren’t, and above all, the question that hovered over the entire report—which military data should be brought to the attention of the prime minister by the defense minister.

The state comptroller emphasized this point as well, determining that the prime minister should have the cabinet’s authorities and duties officially written down. And into this void of uncertainty regarding the position of the cabinet entered Naftali Bennett. Bennett was still new to the political arena in 2014.

Netanyahu perceived the cabinet as a nuisance, much as he seemed to perceive the government, the Knesset, the institution of the state comptroller, the media and everything that did not allow him to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and however he wanted.

The state comptroller’s assertion that the defense array did not provide the cabinet with all the information regarding the tunnels is primarily the result of the chief’s attitude, Netanyahu’s attitude. He did not take the cabinet seriously at the time, and it is doubtful he would take it seriously on the occasion of our next war.

Netanyahu would come to cabinet meetings just so he could check it off; to avoid a comptroller’s report like the one released now. However, at the meetings he was faced with young Bennett, motivated and spirited, ready to challenge the system and Netanyahu himself. The prime minister saw him as a pest, a nuisance.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was in the unfortunate midst as well. At the time, he and Netanyahu were still friends. If Netanyahu would get angry at Bennett, Ya’alon, an old war dog, who only wanted to get home safely, would stammer in the face of Bennett’s passion.

In the cabinet meeting on June 30, 2014 during Operation Brother’s Keeper, during which a proposal for an abnormal airstrike in Gaza was presented to the cabinet, Bennett said: “There are dozens of tunnels today connecting Gaza to southern Israel. The tunnels’ purpose is kidnapping. This is a strategic terror attack that is just waiting to happen.”

It seems Netanyahu felt that Bennett was trying to undermine him and decided to “take control of the situation,” so he said that “there is a key issue here which was raised by Naftali (Bennett), and I think we have to examine it and prepare for it. The tunnel issue we spoke about in the cabinet is a real threat to the State of Israel. It is different since when it comes to kidnappings or infiltrations, there is a kind of balance… in the face of dozens of tunnels crossing into our territory, allowing massive forces to infiltrate. They (terror cells) kidnap but also kill. It’s different. It’s a massive demoralization. It won’t defeat us, but it will deal us a terrible blow.”

During the discussion, Netanyahu turned to Ya’alon and said: “Dealing with the tunnels, which are a very effective tool for our enemy in Gaza—and perhaps not only in Gaza—is something that should be marked as an issue that needs to be dealt with. I am asking for a plan. We have to see how we can destroy the tunnel system.”

During the next cabinet discussion, Bennett noted that the IDF was supposed to present a plan of action against the tunnels. “Will the IDF present to us tonight the operational alternatives for Gaza?” he asked. Netanyahu answered, “I think they want to discuss it among themselves.” Bennett replied, “I thought that was yesterday’s homework.”

In another cabinet discussion from early July, Bennett requested to “see what it takes to neutralize the tunnel-digging ability and the missile-firing ability.”

Ya’alon replied, “There are a number of possibilities and we will discuss them first of all among ourselves.” Bennett asked again if there was “a plan regarding the tunnels,” and Ya’alon replied, “Of course.” He noted that “there was a presentation of all the operative plans.” Bennett replied, “I don’t recall that we were presented with a plan to thwart the tunnels.”

At that point, Netanyahu started getting upset and intervened: “The cabinet’s authority is the prime minister’s authority to decide on the cabinet discussions. What hasn’t been presented here because it was not on the agenda is a plan or a possibility to take care of the tunnel problem, and I think it’s important to present it because that’s the problem we are facing.”

Former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz commented that “as we were asked, tomorrow we will present many versions of how to get into the tunnels.”

In the cabinet discussion on the morning Operation Protective Edge was launched, on July 7, 2014, Netanyahu decided that should the rocket attacks persist, the IDF will escalate its responses accordingly, and firing at the tunnels would be “a given, unless you (Ya’alon) tell me this would become a problem later on.”

Based on the discussions in the transcripts, Ya’alon kept mum on the issue. Now, as a private citizen, he has plenty of time to think about the answers.

As reported by Ynetnews