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Israeli politicians respond to critical report of Gaza conflict

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Israeli leaders have issued their response to the State Comptroller’s report that heavily criticised political and military leaders for their handling of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

In his 200-page report, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira concluded that the security cabinet was not given enough information about the Hamas tunnel threat to make effective decisions, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon having sufficient intelligence assessments.

The report criticised the Government for failing to provide the military with clear objectives for the conflict and said that Netanyahu failed to properly consider diplomatic options. Shapira also criticised the Security Cabinet for not taking measures to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza during the conflict.

Netanyahu defended his actions, saying that Operation Protective Edge had resulted in “unprecedented” quiet in the Gaza region. He said: “We’ve delivered Hamas the hardest blow it has ever suffered, killing about a thousand of its terrorists, including its most senior commanders. We knocked down the terror towers. We acted with force and responsibility and in full coordination between the political and military ranks.”

He added that “the most significant and real lessons” of the conflict “are already being implemented fundamentally, responsibly and quietly. These lessons are not in the comptroller’s report”.

Ya’alon said that the report only “evaluated partial aspects of a complicated operation”. He also went on the offensive, calling the security cabinet at the time a “shallow, political, populist” body, “the worst and most irresponsible” security cabinet he had known.

Opposition leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said the report demonstrated that the Government had “failed in its job of understanding the threats, determining a strategy” and that consequently “Netanyahu must draw his conclusions and hand in the keys”.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid commented: “The report clearly concludes that the State of Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu was not properly prepared” and that although he knew about the tunnel threat, Netanyahu “didn’t inform the Security Cabinet and didn’t tell the public the truth”.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who consistently and publicly called for greater action to tackle the tunnels, said: “This is not an easy day, it calls for responsibility and sensitivity.”