Tunnel Vision: When Did Israel Discover Threat?

Tunnel Vision: When Did Israel Discover Threat?

Two Israeli columnists differ on when and what the Netanyahu government knew about the extensive network of attack tunnels the IDF has encountered in Gaza. Writing for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse section, Ben Caspit assumes a post-war commission of inquiry will need to be convened to determine why this security threat would have been ignored if not for the Hamas refusal of a ceasefire prior to Israel’s decision to invade.  Some of his assumptions are challenged by Nahum Barnea, writing in Yediot Achranot. (More on that later.)

In his July 25th article, “Tunnel intelligence failure a wake-up call for Israel, Caspit raises the alarm as follows:

One senior Cabinet member I spoke with this week described that possibility to me: “Imagine,” he said, “that we are in the middle of a conflict with Hezbollah up north. Our top-notch infantry brigades are up there, in the north, when suddenly Hamas deploys its network of dozens of tunnels all at once. Some 2,000 Hamas commandos suddenly burst out of them and embark on a killing spree, slaughtering thousands of people in the cities and towns across Israel’s south, . . . Who would stop them? . . .”
What originally led to Israel’s ground assault in Gaza was the tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa from which 13 Hamas commandos emerged. They were seen coming out of the tunnel by scouts in an Israel Defense Forces observation post. Video of the ensuing battle, which took place that same morning, aired on all of Israel’s TV networks. The commandos can be seen coming out of the tunnel dressed in IDF uniforms,  . . .
The film footage shocked Israel. Suddenly, everybody realized how permeable Israel’s border wall along the Gaza Strip really is, how much we had been living for the past few years beside a barrel of gunpowder on the edge of a volcano. Even ministers Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, who did not support a ground incursion until that morning, withdrew their opposition, clearing the way for the operation to begin. At first, it was said that it would take three days to clean out the tunnels and destroy them.  . . . Israel believed before that Hamas had three strategic tunnels. The current estimate is that there are 30, and perhaps a lot more.   . . .

J.J. Goldberg, The Jewish Daily Forward’s editor at large and columnist extraordinaire, reports on and translates Nahum Barnea’s column that contends in part (quoting Goldberg’s paraphrase) that:  

. . . Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has known for a long time about the network of tunnels under Gaza and the threat they pose, but he punted because he had other things on his agenda. Now he’s shockedshocked! — to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza! 

Read more in Goldberg’s blog post, “Israel’s Latest Fib.” (Click on that title or here: http://blogs.forward.com/jj-goldberg/202855/israels-latest-fib-gaza-tunnels-were-surprise/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Today%20%28Monday-Friday%29&utm_campaign=Saturday-and-Sunday_Daily_Newsletter%202014-07-26#ixzz38ZwoZ5Lf.

Notice that Barnea, according to Goldberg, feels that the IDF invasion has basically blunted the tunnel threat for now; even so, he writes that the IDF expects yet another “round” after a period of quiet.  Barnea clearly hopes for a more creative political approach to the conflict, which is the only solution. 

By | 2014-07-27T12:36:00-04:00 July 27th, 2014|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Peter Eisenstadt July 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Very interesting, and the question of the tunnels are complex, and I don’t presume to have all the answers. But for anyone self-identifying as being on the left, such as Ben Caspit, to conclude his article by saying “this is a war between the sons of light against the sons of darkness” quoting the war scroll from Qumram is just crazy. Apocalyptic language of this sort has no role in any serious discussion of the current war. The IDF are not the sons of light, and Hamas are not the sons of darkness.

    This sort of crazy language, which unfortunately is all too common in the Jewish tradition–as in last week’s Torah portion–consider Numbers 33:55–calling for the extermination of the enemy, has to be condemned, even if being used here as hyperbole. By using this quote is Caspit arguing the ends of the destruction of Hamas will justify any means–what else can you do when facing demonic, absolute evil?–, 10,000; 100,000, or 1,000,000 civilian so long as the objective of destroying Hamas is realized? I can’t see any other way to interpret his words. This situation, so complex and so muddled, calls for, above all, clear heads and unclouded thinking and not the use of careless and inflammatory rhetoric.

  2. Yonathan Shapir July 30, 2014 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    More about Ben Caspit:
    In his article yesterday (in Hebrew) he admits that he was wrong last week when he wrote that the tunnels system in Gaza was a surprise to Israel. Meanwhile he has found out that the IDF knew about it all along. At least Caspit apologizes.

    I only hope that in the future anyone who promotes or analyzes Caspit’s articles will take them with a big grain of salt.

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