My heart went out this week to Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, the former Defense Minister, who had a massive stumbling block cast before him on his way to the Prime Minister's Office, in the form of the State Comptroller's report.
In his own home, far from any government office, after more than two years of efforts to convince the public of the damage Naftali Bennett caused during Operation Protective Edge, claiming that anything that Naftali Bennett did amounted to playing petty politics and not statesmanship - all of a sudden they bring him the Comptroller's report, even before the public gets it.
Then he opens to page 88 of the report and reads the following lines: "Except for former Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who broached the subject in a meeting at the beginning of July, because in that meeting the IDF was scheduled to present its operational plan against the tunnels and 'Gaza operational alternatives' which were promised in the previous meeting, not one of the other cabinet ministers demanded to know how the IDF was deployed to deal with the tunnel threat."
And when he continued reading, the following lines probably leaped before his eyes: "In the cabinet meeting... former Economy Minister Naftali Bennett noted ...", "Former Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said ...", "In the cabinet meeting on Operation Protective Edge former economy Minister Naftali Bennett asked, if ... ", "The former Economy Minister again asked if there is a plan for the tunnels ... ", "In another cabinet discussion former economy Minister Naftali Bennett inquired..."
And all this is not deprecating, but praising instead. Suddenly it turns out that the State Comptroller, whose entire being is rooted in criticism, reveals that in everything concerning the tunnels - there was a responsible adult in the cabinet, and it was not Bogie, nor the Prime Minister, but rather "the Economy Minister at the time" as he is known throughout the report. Meanwhile the Defense Minister himself, is the subject of a devastating review of the entire preparedness for war, such as in the disruption of Israeli Gaza area residents' security.
The Comptroller, precisely on this subject, did not hesitate to use strong language: "The audit revealed that before Operation Protective Edge, the Defense Ministry took several steps that, together with the increased awareness of Israeli Gaza area residents of the tunnel threat during the operation, undermined the residents' sense of security: Cancellation of IDF security throughout area communities, removal of IDF outposts from Gaza area communities, cessation of funding for first-response squad preparedness training during reserve service days, changing local security coordinator's wage agreements, and providing inadequate readiness training for the security coordinators and first response teams."
Is it any wonder that after such a review, in face of all the praise for Bennett, that Bogie lost it?
So what happens next? Someone leaks claims that attempt to tarnish Brig. Gen. Yossi Beinhorn, head of the security office of the State Comptroller, the head of the team that actually conducted the audit report, that it's all because he wears a kippa, and his son Doron is active in the Jewish Home party for goodness' sake (he occupied place #103 on the Knesset list, not such a realistic spot...). And a "former senior cabinet official" (I wonder who?) convenes the military correspondents to tell them that Bennett's pressure to arrest 50 Hamas members, especially those freed in the Jibril deal, is what actually caused the war. And that is the move that to this day is the most painful to Hamas. Those freed in the Shalit deal and later rearrested whom Hamas is now demanding to release in exchange for the bodies of soldiers Shaul and Goldin.
I don't want to imagine what our security situation would be had the army been deterred from arresting Hamas activists for fear that the arrest would lead to war.
I have enormous admiration for former IDF chief Yaalon, as a fighter, as a commander, and as a leader - and that's not a flippant remark. I chafed, as did many of my colleagues, when Sharon dismissed him from the army, because he disapproved of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. I was happy, like many, when he joined the Likud to strengthen the security aspect of the political right. I liked his resolute opinions regarding Israeli control of Judea and Samaria.
I was pleased when he was appointed Defense Minister in the belief that he would act according to the same fundamental views he expressed prior to his appointment. Like many others I appreciated his intellectual and political honesty. And in the distant past, for a moment I even entertained the hope that some kind of healthy political cooperation between Bogie and Bennett would develop. After all, it would be impossible to insert a sheet of paper into the ideological differences between them.
So what happened to Bogie? I admit I have no answer. In his behavior in recent years, particularly since he became Defense Minister, he made rookie mistakes that do not at all sound like a Lieutenant General. One thing is clear: This is no way to return to a leadership position.
And not only Bogie. Netanyahu can also eat his heart out. A few months ago, last summer, Netanyahu summoned all the religious and sectarian media, in order to brief them against Bennett regarding the auditor's report and to explain that "the Cabinet discussed the tunnel issue 14 times." This week these briefings turned out to be a double-edged sword for him.
The auditor decided to investigate in depth whether Netanyahu was being accurate, and discovered that references to the subject were vague, general, and certainly not suited to the gravity of the subject. A typical example: "In the 23.3.14 cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister noted the tunneling problem at the beginning of the discussion and did not expand beyond that" (page 87, Comptroller's Report). And this is just one example.
Bogie Yaalon is already outside of the political system. Netanyahu is Prime Minister. Most likely this report, with all its cutting findings, will not be reason to remove him from his position. There is indeed no reason for this: The purpose of the report is not that heads may roll, but to draw lessons for the next campaign, and in light of developments this week in the Gaza area it may be sooner than expected.
Haggai Huberman is a reporter and military analyst, a veteran reporter of Arutz Sheva and Basheva. Won the Aminoach prize for documenting the History of Religious Zionist settlement, for his books Roots in the sand and Against All Odds.
Translated by Mordechai Sones