Gershon Baskin shares his insights to Israel’s state comptroller report on the 2014 Gaza conflict.
The 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge (Miv’tza Tzuk Eitan, lit. “Operation Strong Cliff”) or the 2014 Gaza war) was a military operation that followed the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members, that began when Hamas fired rockets into Israel.
On February 28, 2017, Israel’s state comptroller issued a report that took military and political leaders to task for their failure to prepare adequately for the threat of attack tunnels ahead of the 2014 war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The report found significant gaps in the military’s intelligence in the lead-up to the war, as well as a lack of clearly defined operational plans for how to destroy the tunnels. Those failings may have led, the report said, to the unnecessary deaths of Israeli soldiers during the 50-day conflict.
After kidnapping three youths from Gush Etzion in June 2014 during the “Shuvu Ahim” operation in which Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank suspected of being Hamas supporters including dozens of Hamas members who had been freed by agreement in the Schalit deal, I received messages from Hamas-Gaza and the Hamas leadership in Qatar saying that they did not want to escalate the situation and they were not interested in war. I passed these messages on to the IDF Intelligence Branch, The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and to the political-security department head at the Defense Ministry. One of the Generals even asked me for some clarifications. I sent the questions to Hamas, received the answers and passed them onto the General.
At that time, Hamas insisted that they were not responsible for the kidnapping of the boys and their subsequent murder. It turned out that several people identified as being connected to Hamas in the Hebron area had initiated and undertook this terror attack without receiving instructions from the leadership of Hamas (Gaza or abroad). At this point we are already in a frenzy of serious escalation on both sides, and despite my attempts together with a colleague in the Hamas leadership in Gaza to restore the calm, the leaderships of both sides had decided that they wanted the war. Both sides flexed their muscles and wanted to prove that they knew how to win. None of them had an exit plan or strategy from the war they wanted to launch and the results of that horrible war are known to us very well.
The State Comptroller’s report indicates that the Israeli Cabinet did not even explore political efforts to avoid the war. The situation in Gaza that led to the war has remained unchanged. Both sides have rebuilt their military capabilities in anticipation for the next war – which is only a question of time. How sad that this is the quality of our leaders on both sides and so flippant in the way that they play with our lives and the lives of our children.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.