The washing machines in the Prime Minister’s Bureau are working overtime. Where did the head of the Shin Bet security service come from so suddenly, just when they had managed to get people to forget the nuisance of Operation Protective Edge? The launderers are determined that this must be squashed right now: “This is an ego war between organizations”; “Netanyahu the responsible adult will make peace between them”; “The head of the Shin Bet is exploding a bit with his ego” (that, apparently, has a kernel of truth to it).
The most important thing, so the spin has it, is to talk about January. Let’s see the head of the Shin Bet prove that he said something last January about “war” with Hamas.
It’s not for nothing that they have to work so hard in the Prime Minister’s Bureau. There’s a problem. They fooled the public and the media. And, worst of all, they fooled the security cabinet ministers. And it’s not for nothing that the Israel Defense Forces insists on bickering with the Shin Bet over what was said last January. The army finds it less comfortable to talk about what was said in April.
In April, everyone agrees, there was solid information that Hamas was planning a major terror strike that could turn into a conflict, and that it was getting ready for such a clash. And yet the IDF continued to tell the public that Hamas wanted calm (as the GOC Southern Command said in April).
Never mind the media – which it is legitimate to mislead in such circumstances. That’s also what they told the security cabinet ministers. They called them together in June over the abduction of the three teens, and sold them a major arrest sweep of Hamas operatives in the West Bank, including prisoners released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit swap.
But they somehow forgot to tell them there was information that Hamas was planning a major attack, and that it might not be so wise to ratchet up the tension, but instead plan for a clash, or even – perish the thought – try to prevent it.
To this day, the army insists Hamas did not want a conflict and was dragged into it, despite itself. When you ask how this lines up with the information about the planning of a major attack, the army answers: If only we could show you the information that proves it.
Well, there are people who can reveal the information. The subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is investigating Operation Protective Edge and is very aware of the questions – which are not simple ones – about the conduct of the prime minister. Naftali Bennett testified to the committee after sitting for hours in the Prime Minister’s Bureau with the minutes of the security cabinet meeting from Protective Edge, and copying the precise quotes with dates.
The prime minister certainly hopes committee chairman MK Zeev Elkin will know how to deal with it and silence MKs Eitan Cabel, Ofer Shelah, Aryeh Deri and their friends on the committee. Clearly, a media storm like this will make Elkin’s work much harder.
The minutes apparently show that the army did not speak to the security cabinet before Protective Edge about the attack tunnels in Gaza. And when they did, they said Hamas would be afraid to use them.
The comic interlude in this story is the state comptroller, who as usual decided to look into the matter. What isn’t he checking? He announced he would be scrutinizing the expenses of the Prime Minister’s Residence; the issue of public housing; El Al’s high prices; the decision-making process during Operation Protective Edge; and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s trip to Vienna. Basically, he is “checking” anything that will get him a headline.
The questions about Netanyahu’s decisions are not simple: If he knew there was a real likelihood that Hamas was looking for a clash, why didn’t he try to prevent it? And if he wanted a clash, why didn’t he plan a surprise strike along the lines of the 2012 assassination of Ahmed Jabari, instead of a downhill slide toward it by way of an arrest sweep in the West Bank? Moreover, why were the civilian heads of security in the communities around the Gaza Strip fired just before Operation Protective Edge? And why, during the fighting, did an Iron Dome battery have to be taken from one intended for a foreign client, because there weren’t enough batteries?