Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Flash 90

Channel 2's main investigative news program, Uvda, has vindicated Economics Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, who has claimed that the operation the IDF launched against Hamas's terror tunnels was largely a product of his insistence.

Uvda's report determines that it was Bennett who repeatedly raised the subject of the tunnels at cabinet sessions in the summer, while Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to avoid launching an operation against the tunnels.

"If there is anything that a person who is familiar with the protocols of the cabinet sessions can see," reported Uvda's editor and anchorwoman Ilana Dayan, "it is that Minister Naftali Bennett demands, again and again, to launch an operation against the tunnels, and he hears an answer that more or less repeats itself, from Defense Minister Yaalon: the tunnel threat is one we can live with, it need not be defined as a target, at least not in this round of fighting.”

Yaalon's bureau did not deny the claim and said that “at the stage in which [Yaalon] said those things, he thought that it was still right to strive for a ceasefire, and of course, prepared for the possibility that we will have to go into the Strip.”

Uvda's report fits in with similar findings by Haaretz last month.

Bennett's demand was initially raised on June 30, reported Amos Harel and Nili Cohen in the left-wing newspaper. In a one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu and immediately afterward in the cabinet session, Bennett called for the operation as a response to the murder of three yeshiva students, which would remove the tunnel threat to Gaza communities.

Bennett repeated the demand in daily cabinet sessions, according to the report, but Yaalon and the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet were unenthusiastic. They preferred a policy of containment, threats and warnings. 

The existence of Hamas's terror tunnels, many of which extended into Israel, was known to the IDF, but ignored for a long time, despite the threat they posed. That threat became terrifyingly apparent when Hamas began to make use of the tunnels and launched large terror squads into Israeli territory. The sight of terrorist after terrorist emerging from a tunnel drove home to Israelis that they had been living under the threat of a large scale massacre.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyhau eventually disclosed that Hamas was planning a massacre on Rosh Hashana. The realization of these plans was averted by the IDF ground operation that destroyed the tunnels that led into Israel.