Israel’s top intelligence agencies have erupted into an open feud over responsibility for the Hamas war in mid-2014.
In what reflected growing tension amid official inquiries, Military Intelligence and the Israel Security Agency have begun issuing claims over their role prior to the 50-day war with Hamas in July and August 2014.
“We all have a national responsibility for Israel’s security, and we must continue to fully cooperate for the sake of citizens’ security,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has sought to end the feud, said.
The accusations hurled by MI and ISA took place amid Israel’s investigation of the Hamas war, in which 4,700 rockets were fired into Israel. ISA has asserted that it warned Netanyahu of an impending war as early as January 2014 but was ignored.
On Nov. 11, ISA officials gave their account to national television. They said ISA director Yoram Cohen warned the government that Hamas was preparing a strategic attack in which fighters would enter Israel through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip.
“Information passed on by ISA, beginning in January 2014, pointed to the start of Hamas preparations and training ahead of a possible conflict with Israel,” ISA said in a statement on Nov. 13. “It is important to note, however, that at no point did ISA officials, including the interviewees in the story, say that ISA had alerted, in light of this information, to a war against Hamas in July.”
The statements were said to have outraged MI as well as Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Military sources said tension with ISA peaked during the Hamas war when Cohen and MI commander Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi argued at a Cabinet meeting in late August.
“In my opinion, ISA’s disclosure of the intelligence possessed by its people, and the methods it has adopted, set a dangerous precedent, and it remains unclear who approved this scandalous admission,” Gantz wrote in a letter to Netanyahu.
Gantz said the ISA account on Israel’s Channel 2 television portrayed the military and government as paralyzed. The chief of staff denied that ISA relayed a warning of a Hamas war in July.
“I firmly assert that ISA did not issue a warning that Hamas intended to launch a war in July as a deliberate and definite matter,” Gantz said. “The issue of the war or potential campaign was never presented in any discussion that I headed, and there was certainly no discussion in early 2014 regarding an impending war, in either military or political circles.”
At least two panels were examining the Hamas war. A key issue for the State Comptroller and Knesset was MI’s assurance that Hamas was too weak amid Egyptian pressure to renew hostilities.
Representatives of MI and ISA provided disputing analyses of the war to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. ISA asserted that Hamas’ military wing planned the war in cooperation with Iran while MI insisted that the conflict marked an unplanned escalation.
“Some people have an interest in creating a dispute,” a military source said.