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Haaretz Editorial: Netanyahu Knew. Netanyahu Ignored. Netanyahu Is Responsible

Benjamin Netanyahu was given updates from the IDF concerning the possibility of a Hamas attack. He is responsible and also to blame for what happened on that Black Saturday. He failed in his most important duty, to ensure the security of Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, last month.,Credit: Abir Sultan / AP // Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given updates from the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate concerning the possibility of a Hamas attack. It is the same intelligence body that Netanyahu tweeted about on October 29 at 1:10 A.M., asserting that “under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned about Hamas’ intending to go to war.”

Netanyahu’s predilection for distorting the truth comes as no surprise to anyone, but Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson reported that the head of Military Intelligence’s research arm had personally warned Netanyahu that “an opportunity has been identified for a perfect storm – an internal crisis, a wide escalation of the Palestinian arena and a challenge from other arenas – that would lead to multidimensional and continuous pressures.” Brig. Gen. Amit Sa’ar stressed that “this analysis is not an interpretation of the reality, but based on a situational assessment by the leadership, intelligence personnel and communications.”

But Netanyahu chose to ignore this dire professional assessment, and soon afterward, he opted to make the situation even worse: Just days after getting the letter, the prime minister chose to dismiss Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after the latter also warned about exactly the same danger. Only because the public went out en masse to protest against this preposterous act, which was based on fundamentally flawed considerations, did Netanyahu decide to keep Gallant on the job.

Sa’ar didn’t stop with the one letter he sent to Netanyahu in March, but wrote a second one in July. It opened with a warning that “the worsening of the crisis has deepened the erosion of Israel’s image, has further undercut Israeli deterrence and increases the likelihood of escalation.” He stressed that from the enemy’s point of view, Israel was at “one of the weakest points since its establishment” and that significant things were being said “in closed and professional forums of security forces in Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.” This letter also made no impression on Netanyahu, who continued to insist on moving ahead with the judicial overhaul.

The response of the Prime Minister’s Office to these two letters captures the kind of manipulation and lies that characterize Netanyahu’s leadership of the state: “In contrast to what has been reported, Prime Minister Netanyahu never was given any warning of war.” To the contrary, the prime minister did get exacting warnings about what tragically became true a few months later.

Netanyahu is responsible and also to blame for what happened on that accursed Black Saturday. He failed in his most important duty, which is to ensure the security of Israelis. At the end of the war, he will have to face a state commission of inquiry and explain his failures. However, what we know so far is already enough to justify ousting him from office and preventing him from continuing to oversee a war that is largely the consequence of his incompetence.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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