The right to know in Israel

Joseph Shapira, Israel’s State Comptroller, is an official elected by the Knesset for one mandate of seven years with the task of controlling the executive branch of the Government. On February 28, 2017, the State Comptroller published a critical report regarding operation “Protective Edge”, an attack executed in 2014 by the Israeli army against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the launch of thousands of rockets and continuous terrorist infiltrations in Israeli territory. Conclusions to the report are expected to be published next week.

At the moment, published extracts indicate that the military attack lacked in both military and political preparation. The Comptroller specifically refers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and high officials from both Mossad and IDF. The report highlights that the Government members of the National Security Council (NSC) did not possess all necessary information to make an appropriate assessment of the crisis. The Israeli air forces did not possess sufficient intel on the underground tunnel network in Gaza, and between Gaza and Egypt, to allow for efficient targetting.

According to Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party and member of the Security Council in 2014, the report demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Prime Minister was fully aware of the threat posed by the tunnel system but decided nonetheless to keep this information hidden from the NCS and the public. Netanyahu has dismissed all criticism, highlighting the need for secrecy when taking certain decisions and defending the success of the operation that destroyed 32 tunnels, of which 14 led directly into Israel. According to intel, 15 tunnels still remain, which is why the Comptroller retains instead that the operation has failed.

In any case, beyond the merits of the case, it is noteworthy that at a time when the Rule of Law and democratic principles are under threat everywhere, Israel continues to assert the application of the Rule of Law and to provide a friendly environment for the right to know, through a complex and courageous debate on the legality and responsability of the highest State officials and their most sensitive activities.

Matteo Angioli

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