Israeli officials brace for Gaza war report

Officials accused of being ill prepared for Hamas use of tunnels

TEL AVIV - Israeli politicians and ex-generals are scambling for cover ahead of the publication on Tuesday of a report expected to slam their conduct of the costly 2014 Gaza war.
The findings of a two-year inquiry, due to be released at 1400 GMT, are widely expected to inflict collateral damage on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-defence minister Moshe Yaalon and former army chief of staff Benny Gantz for failing to prepare for the threat posed by Hamas tunnels from Gaza, despite intelligence warnings.
For the past few days players past and present have been franticly "briefing reporters, providing leaks, and besmirching their opponents, some directly and some obliquely," as Maariv daily put it on Monday.
"Those who played politics in the security cabinet in an unprecedented way during the war will continue to do so this week," Yaalon wrote in Hebrew on his Facebook page.
The report -- 200 pages including annexes -- was compiled by state comptroller Yossef Shapira, who is in charge of assessing governance and use of public funds.
He launched his probe in September 2014, immediately after the July-August conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip.
Fallout from the report is likely to pit Netanyahu against his coalition partner and political rival Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist Jewish Home party.
Bennett has said that he and fellow members of the security cabinet were not properly briefed by Netanyahu on the extent of the tunnel threat and he therefore used his own personal military contacts to get information.
- Cabinet contention -
He later boasted that he had been the first political leader to grasp the extent of the threat.
Also weighing in is Yair Lapid, a centrist fired as finance minister in Netanyahu's previous government who sat in the 2014 security cabinet but is now a bitter foe of both Bennett and the premier.
"Even if it was not put to the security cabinet, the prime minister should have told the military to prepare a plan of action, that's his job," he said in a weekend interview with Israeli Channel Two TV.
"There was no methodology on how to deal with the tunnels."
Hamas and its allies used the tunnels into southern Israel for cross-border attacks.
The report examines "the way in which decisions were made within the security cabinet before and at the start of Operation Protective Edge", Shapira's spokesman said on Friday using Israel's codename for the assault.
A draft, released to ministers and military officials in November and leaked to media soon after, reportedly says Netanyahu and Yaalon only partially informed their inner cabinet of the threat posed by the tunnels.
A source close to Netanyahu has denied the charge.
Destroying the tunnels and stopping Gaza-based Palestinian militants launching rockets into Israel were the key declared goals of Israel's third offensive in the coastal territory in six years.
The tunnels were among the Palestinians' most effective weapons during the 50-day conflict.
Israel's military found 32 tunnels, including 14 from the Gaza Strip into Israel, according to a UN inquiry on the conflict. Hamas says it has continued to dig new ones.
The war killed 2,251 Palestinians and left 100,000 homeless, according to the UN. On the Israeli side, 74 people were killed - all but six of them were soldiers.