Furor Breaks Out Over Gaza War Warning

YERUSHALAYIM -
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L), Israeli Chief of Police Yohanan Danino (C) and chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L), Israeli Chief of Police Yohanan Danino (C) and chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A bitter behind-the-scenes argument over a purported warning about Hamas war plans prior to the Gaza rocket offensive last summer has erupted in public between the IDF and the Shin Bet, prompting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call the two sides together to iron matters out.

In an unusual move, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz sent a letter of complaint to Netanyahu on Wednesday about the conduct of the intelligence agency for airing allegations that alerts it sent to the army before the Gaza war went unheeded.

Shin Bet sources say that they provided the alert several months before the outbreak of hostilities in July. The warnings were said to contain detailed descriptions of Hamas plans to penetrate deep into Israeli territory using its network of tunnels. The IDF, backed by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, insist that no such alerts were ever received.

Mutual recriminations began to be heard during closed-door meetings as early as the end of Operation Protective Edge when then-head of military intelligence General Aviv Kochavi said at a cabinet meeting that had they known before the war what they later discovered, they might have conducted military operations differently.

At that point, Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen interrupted Kochavi and said, so that all present, including the prime minister, could hear, “What are you talking about? You had all the information. We gave you everything to prepare for all these developments.”

IDF chief Gantz said on the spot that he had seen no such warnings, and asked that the relevant documents be shown to him.

If the allegations are true, it would mean that the highest echelons of the Israeli government and military had not made the necessary preparations for the protection of its soldiers and citizenry.

In addition, military sources explained that the IDF chief of staff cannot allow the head of an intelligence agency to make such serious claims counter to the statements of the prime minister, defense minister, the military chief, and the director of military intelligence — and which are not supported by any internal documents.

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee reportedly held ,several classified meetings on the issue in recent days, and also sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday asking him to mediate between the sides.

Netanyahu convened the heads of the IDF and the Shin Bet on Wednesday night and ordered them to settle their “I-told-you, No-you-didn’t” squabble.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu told Gantz and Cohen, “We all have a national responsibility for the security of Israel and we must continue to fully cooperate for the safety of the citizens of Israel.