The Israeli Comptroller General Joseph Shapira has finally issued his report on IDF Operation Protective Edge of 2014 against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It contains troubling revelations that bring into question several basic aspects of Israeli Government functioning in time of war.
Here are the most important points:
- The Tunnels: PM Netanyahu was briefed on the attack tunnels that Hamas had dug under the Gaza border into Israel to facilitate its attacks. However, he failed to give this subject enough priority and failed to pass the information on to the military echelon, thus putting Israel in grave danger. During the conflict a single soldier detected the infliltration of a group of Hamas terrorists from a tunnel entrance within Israel and raised the alarm. If it had not been for this Israeli civilian casualties would have been much higher. The IDF then destroyed this group of infiltrators and had to adapt during the war to the serious danger posed by these tunnels. Of the 32 tunnels that were detected by the IDF, only about half were actually blown up, leaving a significant threat to the state. Since then Hamas has dug more tunnels and the IDF is finally taking this threat seriously and developing an anti-tunnel strategy.
- Coordination of civilian and military leadership: The civilian and military echelons failed to coordinate their intentions and actions in a formal way, leading to misunderstandings and in some cases lack of action when immediate action was necessary. This could have lead to loss of life.
- Whether the war was necessary at all: The dcision-making processes that lead to the Government declaring war through Operation Protective Edge were faulty. The decision to go to war was ad hoc and needs in future to have a serious basis.
Some other details of the war were questioned, for instance, why was it necessary for the IDF to directly attack Shujaiya, a heavily defended Hamas stronghold in the center of the Strip. This led to loss of IDF soldiers lives. Altogether there were 74 dead and two soldiers remains were captured and are held by Hamas.
Overall, Operation Defensive Edge was considered a success by the Israeli side, in that the backbone of Hamas military control of the Gaza Strip was largely destroyed and they were dealt a severe blow, thus re-establishing Israeli deterrence. But, even though there has mainly been quiet on that front since the end of that war, nevertheless it is widely agreed that Hamas are preparing for another war in the not too distant future. There are two main trains of thought on the Israeli side about this. On the right, it is questioned why an “operation” was used instead of an all-out war to totally destroy Hamas. On the left, it is considered necessary to come to terms with Hamas (even though have no intention of coming to terms with Israel).
There are currently calls within the political establishment for a full State Commission to reinvestigate that war. Such an action would be self-destructive for Israel. The political establishment, including the PM are under pressure to admit mistakes, while the PM denies any. And the military, the IDF leadership, also have counter-attacked the Report. How this will work itself out remains to be seen. Let’s hope lessons were learned so that such mistakes do not happen in the future.