Bennett Rebuffed on Gaza Tunnels

YERUSHALAYIM -
A tunnel found in the northern Gaza Strip by IDF forces, on August 3, 2014, at the end of Operation Protective Edge.  (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
A tunnel found in the northern Gaza Strip by IDF forces, on August 3, 2014, at the end of Operation Protective Edge.
(IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

It is not only Israelis living near the Gaza border who can hear Hamas digging tunnels; everyone in Yerushalayim right up to the prime minister and the members of his security cabinet can hear it, too.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can also hear another unpleasant sound, that of Education Minister Naftali Bennett digging at him, demanding a tougher response to the terror tunneling.

At a recent meeting, Bennett reportedly urged a preemptive IDF operation to knock out the underground infrastructure, which Hamas has boasted of rebuilding at a rapid pace since Operation Protective Edge. But Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon rejected the proposal.

On an Israel Radio broadcast Tuesday, aides to Yaalon accused Bennet of acting “childishly” by “being prepared to drag the country to war for cynical, political purposes … it would behoove cabinet ministers to refrain from making childish, irresponsible statements.”

This appeared aimed at opposition leader Isaac Herzog as well, who last week insisted that the government stop hesitating and act effectively to remove the tunnel threat.

Bennett’s office declined to comment on the matter. Likewise, the Prime Minister’s Office said it does not comment on cabinet discussions in general and on the IDF’s operational plans in particular.

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot assured the public on Tuesday that the military is indeed making a serious effort to counter the threat. Since 2013, he said, “this has been at the top of the IDF’s priority list. There has been an ongoing intelligence effort,” he added.

Eisenkot said that he was not at liberty, however, to discuss the IDF’s counter-measures, but that they rely on the most advanced technology and engineering capabilities.

“There is wide-scale activity to initiate on our part, sabotage, and reach all underground shafts, out of an understanding that this is the central threat. We are carrying out many efforts, most of which are hidden from view. Those who wander around the Gaza Strip today will see many engineering vehicles working in a focused way, as much as this is possible. The question of whether to launch a preemptive attack will be discussed where it should be discussed,” the chief of staff noted in reference to the Bennett item.