Lieberman and Sa'ar were critical of the operation even while it was ongoing. At the time, Sa'ar demanded Netanyahu to hold a government discussion on the cabinet's decision to cease fire, while Lieberman criticized the fact Hamas had not been defeated.
Lieberman, the foreign minister at the time of the operation, said on Friday that "the prime minister's response to the report shows, more than anything else, that the State of Israel's current leadership, headed by Netanyahu and (Defense Minister Moshe) Ya'alon, is one that shirks responsibility. I cannot and I don't intend to comment on the State Comptroller’s report on Protective Edge, but what is clear, and what must be said, is that the leadership's reaction to it is indicative of the fact it is incapable of making the necessary decisions and of ensuring the security of the citizens of Israel."
Officials in Netanyahu's close circle rejected the report draft, asserting that “the operation was managed in a transparent manner and concluded successfully. All the rest is slander.” Moreover, they insisted that cabinet sessions were convened many times and their meetings included talks of the threat of tunnels.
Lieberman pointed out that the Shin Bet has passed on information about the tunnel threat to the prime minister, the defense minister and the IDF chief, but the intelligence agency's warnings "did not receive serious response from the army and not brought to the cabinet's knowledge," noting that this fact only "strengthens the truth in the reports of the failings the State Comptroller is pointing to."
He criticized the fact that "Israel only responds to actions and threats made by Hamas, rather than take any real initiative in order to change the situation completely and remove the ongoing and growing threat from Gaza to the citizens of Israel."
Sa'ar, who was the interior minister during the operation and retired from political life less than a month after the war had ended, wrote on his Twitter page: "The '50 day campaign' in the summer of 2014 was a failure for Israel. I said these things in real time as a member of the government. The way to fix failings is not to attack the criticism."
He went on to say that "We must learn from mistakes and failings. Denying reality is not a good way to go."
The Prime Minister's Office did not respond to these comments.
Former IDF chief Benny Gantz, who commanded the military during the operation, addressed the leaking of the report draft on Friday as well. "I regret the fact the comptroller's report got to me 24 hours after it got to the press. Protective Edge was managed by the prime minister, the defense minister, and myself, in a level-headed, responsible and balanced manner. And I will act in the same manner on this issue," he said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog joined the chorus of criticism against Netanyahu. "Then, exactly as they do today, the conversation focused on slogans against Hamas instead of stopping and striking at Hamas's leadership," Herzog wrote on Twitter. "It turns out that not all who shout are truly frightening. Instead of trying to defeat the comptroller, who is a very serious man, they should deal with defeating Hamas."
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, meanwhile, said that "the leaks from the comptroller's report are a grave issue, a continuation of the unrestrained behavior of some members of the cabinet during Operation Protective Edge. However, one thing remains clear, and we don't need a report to know it: Israel was unprepared to a war that it saw was in the making for years, it had no plan or goals, and the IDF was not properly prepared. The main and direct man responsible for that is the prime minister in the five years that preceded the operation - Benjamin Netanyahu. The lesson for the public is clear: Don't be fooled by slogans, demand an investigation of the truth and for lessons to be learned, not just to honor the fallen, but also in order to improve what needs to be improved for the future."
'Irresponsible politicians leaked draft'According to reports in Israeli media, the draft report claims that Netanyahu and Ya’alon did not update the cabinet about Shin Bet warnings of possible military conflicts against Hamas in July 2014 and Netanyahu’s government never discussed the tunnel threat until Operation Protective Edge itself.
Gantz is expected to be criticized over the military evaluations he submitted to the cabinet before and during the operation.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira asked the prime minister and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Friday to investigate who among those whose conduct is examined in the report leaked the draft of a report classified as "top secret." He also called on those who appear in the report to focus on responding to the draft.
Shapira stressed that all of the reports his office compiles "are done according to strict professional standards, as was the case in the reports on the prime minister's residences and the housing crisis."
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has undertaken great efforts to soften the harsh charges leveled in the report. Among other things, he met with Shapira and with other officials from the State Comptroller's office in an effort to explain the damage which can be caused by the report if it is published in its current version.
Netanyahu's close associates criticized the leaking of details from the report's draft, claiming that "there are no similarities between what was reported by the press and what's written in the draft. This draft will also surely change before the final report is released, after responses are received."
They went on to say that "without going into the details of the report, even the comptroller states that the prime minister defined the tunnel threats as a central one long before the operation and instructed all bodies to act to thwart the threat. The report's draft was leaked and distorted by irresponsible politicians who were members of the cabinet and know the truth but still prefer to distort it for political reasons. Operation Protective Edge was managed responsibly and with level-headedness, and delivered the harshest blow Hamas has suffered since its establishment. The time that has passed since Protective Edge has been the calmest in the Gaza border area since 2000."