Mossad Director Yossi Cohen made his first public comments on the 2014 Gaza war state comptroller’s report on Sunday.
In a meeting with the Knesset’s State Control Committee, Cohen promised, “Every lesson will be learned, and every opinion needed to be heard will be heard so that we will be better prepared for the next battle, in which we will hopefully achieve more of what we aim for.”
With that, he claimed that Security cabinet members had “plenty of information” even before the war: “There was no issue we did not know about. The tunnel issue was discussed.”
Cohen reminded that two of his children served as officers, adding, “I assess that in the next war, which I really hope won’t happen, they will also participate. And so, the main issue for me is the practicality of what we are doing with important criticism to make sure that we do the next battle better, both strategically and tactically.”
In an answer to whether the National Security Council (NSC), which he headed at the time of the war, did everything to their upmost abilities, Cohen answered, “Do I think I did the best I could? I think I did. Did I make mistakes? Sure I did. Are there lessons in the report which I personally have to learn? Absolutely yes. Internal assessments in the Mossad are held every day, so I’m not in the position to attack a report or my criticizers.”
“The lessons are what’s important,” added Cohen. “It’s not the most pleasant thing to be criticized in a comptroller report, certainly not when there are people present in the room who were personally hurt by those actions, bereaved families you need to face, but every lesson will be learned. I should also note here that the NSC keeps improving, but there are of course things that still require improvement.”
Cohen commented, “The NSC has an important and vital function for maintaining the national security of Israel. I would be happy to still be part of every NSC meeting, and the people in the council still seek my opinion at times.”
Then, to further emphasize his point, Cohen mentioned several events where the NSC took actions which resulted in them being faster and better resolved, like the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and the time when Ben Gurion Airport was nearly hit by rockets.
In regards to the main question of whether the Cabinet members received the sufficient information on the tunnels ahead of the war, the head of the Mossad said, “I think the Cabinet members had plenty of information, even in the months beforehand."
The Security Cabinet received many security briefings by the Military Intelligence Directorate, the Shin Bet, the defense minister and the prime minister. During the war there were dozens of Security Cabinet meetings, and I even recall days in which there were more than one meeting a day, including over the weekend and throughout the night.
“It’s difficult for me to accept that the members of the Cabinet did not know, understand, or were not supplied with enough information. I think that when such a sharp statement is being made about a subject and it is not sufficiently clarified, every Cabinet member can just raise his hand and say ‘I wan’t to learn more about this.’
“There was no issue we did not know about. There was no such thing. The tunnel issue was discussed. The humanitarian issue in Gaza was discussed. The strategic alternatives were discussed. Everything was discussed.”
Cohen then added “I think there were about 31 Cabinet meetings during Operation Protective Edge. That is about one every three-four days. Is there a chance that someone could not have asked a question? Is there a chance that someone could not have demanded anything? Is it possible that they are seriously claiming, ‘We didn’t know,' ‘We didn’t understand?’”
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)