WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN EXCERPT FROM A MAJOR ARTICLE BY YNET’S NACHUM BARNEA.
[..] This is the real story of Operation Protective Edge. There was no plot by Hamas, or an Israeli conspiracy. The deterioration was gradual, and, just as a snowball rolls downhill, it was propelled by its own momentum and the force of gravity.
Were there warnings when the Cabinet agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire in the middle of last week that Gaza was infested with tunnels, dozens of which led into Israel? The answer is yes.
In a years-long ongoing effort, Military Intelligence mapped the subterranean world in Gaza. The tunnels were not fully understood – not all the shafts and landmarks were identified, but the scale of the threat was known. This knowledge was not solely preserved for the prime minister, but was also available on YouTube in the form of a lecture (in Hebrew) given by the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aviv Kochavi, at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
The troops who entered Gaza were equipped with addresses, according to information gathered by Military Intelligence on suspected tunnel openings.
Netanyahu agreed to the ceasefire last week, despite knowing about the tunnels and the threat they posed. His decision, and that of the Cabinet, was made within the sphere of legitimacy. Bennett, who voted against it because of the tunnels, thought otherwise, but the cabinet had other considerations.
What is not legitimate is the gap between rhetoric and reality. Netanyahu was not the first to warn about the tunnels, but he did so halfheartedly. As prime minister he did not see the tunnels as sufficient threat to justify military action, before and during Pillar of Defense in 2012, and before and during Protective Edge. He chose to take a risk. When he told Channel 2’s Udi Segal that he hoped that the problem of the tunnels could be solved politically, he knew that this was not grounded in reality.
Netanyahu, like others in the government, was surprised by Hamas’ offensive ability, its fighting spirit and the subsequent number of fallen soldiers. Only he can answer the question of whether prior knowledge of the price would have prevented him from rolling into a ground operation. It’s not certain that he is able to answer such a question – even to himself.
The IDF is acting on the assumption that there will be a period of calm followed by yet another round with Hamas. But this time, the damage to Hamas has been very great – the group lost 3,500 rockets, most of its tunnels leading into Israel, part of its chain of command, its war rooms, ammunition depots, and so on. The truce until the next round in Gaza will be long-lasting indeed.
The question is whether the residents of the Gaza perimeter – and residents of the South in general – are willing to keep living from round to round. Surely they deserve better than that.