Israel beat Hamas in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Knesset members Wednesday. “We dealt Hamas a mortal blow, to the point where the terror group’s military wing begged its political echelon abroad to stop the war,” Netanyahu said before the Knesset Control Committee, which is discussing the recently-released State Comptroller’s Report on the war. “’These Jews are crazy, and we cannot handle them,’ the generals told their politicians,” Netanyahu said of the Hamas military wing. “Today they think twice before firing at us.”
With that, Netanyahu said, Israel had done everything possible to avoid war – and when it did take place, to ensure that the costs would be as low as possible. “Our purpose was to weaken Hamas in Yehudah and Shomron, and this rattled Hamas in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “My purpose was to avoid war, and if it needed to take place, to minimize its cost. ‘Cost’ in this case means the pain that families who lost soldiers experience. I know this heartache personally, and our obligation is to minimize this as much as possible. After nearly three years we are experiencing the quietest time in years in the south. Hamas has been tamed,” Netanyahu added, promising to do everything possible to recover the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, Hy”d, as well as a live Israeli, Ebra Mengistu, all being held by Hamas.
According to the report, the IDF was fundamentally “not prepared” to deal with aspects of the war – especially the Hamas terror tunnels. Only half of the tunnels were demolished during the war and its aftermath, and the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, and top IDF generals withheld information from government ministers, who were not aware of the full force of the threats, according to the report.
The army’s unpreparedness displayed itself in several ways, the report said. The army’s objectives from the start of Operation Protective Edge were unclear, and intelligence about Hamas’s activities was “flawed.” The objectives presented ranged from a weakening of Hamas to an all-out retaking of Gaza – and according to the report, army brass disagreed on what to do, even as the war raged.
While the report did not assign blame to any specific party, it did criticize the Defense Minister – at the time Moshe Yaalon – for failing to lead against the threats. Many of the issues reviewed in the report – the disorganization of the army, the backbiting between top officials, and the political overreaching of top generals – could have been tamped down had Yaalon been more decisive in deciding how to deal with the war. “The Defense Minister and those leading it cannot be exempted from the way the IDF conducted the war,” the report added.
Israel has made a great deal of progress in preparing to meet the threat of Hamas terror tunnels, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott told the Committee in earlier testimony. “We established numerous committees to determine what went wrong, and these committees have made their recommendations. Hamas had about 30 terror tunnels, and ten of them reached into Israel. Using these tunnels, Hamas was able to kill 13 of our soldiers.” Since then, all aspects of fighting the tunnel threat – from detecting their presence to preparing to eliminate terrorists that emerge from them – has improved “significantly.”