The search for a scapegoat is more important than the Israel-Hamas conflict as it ramps up. Egypt’s intelligence minister, General Abbas Kamel jumped ahead of the line and pointed all his fingers towards Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An Egyptian intelligence official said that Abbas Kamel of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate called Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ten days earlier to warn him of “something fierce” coming from Gaza. According to an Egyptian source, Netanyahu appeared unconcerned, saying that the IDF was “swamped”, in fighting terror coming from the West Bank.
A second Egyptian official adds color.
The mounting questions about Israel’s failure to prepare and anticipate a Hamas surprise attack were compounded on Monday by an Egyptian intelligence official who said that Jerusalem ignored repeated warnings from Cairo that the Gaza terror group planned “something major” — including an apparent notice directly to the Prime Minister of Egypt’s intelligence ministry.
The Egyptian official stated that Egypt, which is often a mediator between Israel, Hamas, and other parties, has spoken with Israelis repeatedly about “something large,” without providing any further details.
He said that Israeli officials focused their attention on the West Bank, and downplayed the threat from Gaza. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is composed of West Bank settlers, who are demanding a crackdown on security in response to the rising violence there over the past 18 months.
Netanyahu was not a man of ambiguity.
Israel, however, dismissed the anonymous official’s claim as “totally false news”.
The prime minister’s tweet said: “The report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had received an advance message from Egypt is completely false.”
“No message has been received from Egypt in advance and the Prime minister has not spoken to or met with the head of Egyptian intelligence since the creation of the government.”
You’ll recall that the Democratic Party attacked President Bush in the days immediately following 9/11. They claimed there had been warnings. A Presidential Daily Brief entitled “Bin Ladin Decided to Strike In US” was then used as evidence that Bush knew when 9/11 would occur but did nothing. In reality, key intelligence elements (when, where, and with what strength?) were missing. Sorry, Mr. Egyptian intelligence minister, but saying “Hamas is going to do some sh**”, in the context of an organization that fired over 400 rockets into Israel from Gaza as recently as last May, is not really a warning. It is unlikely that the warning was acted upon unless it had more details than Egypt has revealed.
There are many moving parts.
Netanyahu leads a coalition that is very fragile and in a weak position. Even the slightest hint of a missed alert would be enough to bring down his government. It’s only natural for him to deny having received a warning. It is difficult to believe, however, that because of this and Netanyahu’s past experience, that if he had received a warning that was even slightly more serious than usual, he would not have put Mossad/Shin Bet on high alert to investigate. It has always been his brand to protect Israel at any cost. It’s hard to imagine him doing anything else.
Egypt’s Middle East value proposition is its ability, not only to stop terrorism from Egypt but also to get inside Hamas or the PLO and find out what they are doing and prevent them from going crazy. Egypt failed as a partner in security if Israel did not anticipate this attack. In fact, the weasely, day-late-dollar-short leak that Israel received some nebulous warning gives the aura of Egypt realizing they may have been played and not wanting to be blamed.
Intelligence is seen through the lens of expectations, as I have said before. Hamas was not suspected, so warning signs were overlooked or misinterpreted. It’s also possible that the operation was planned in a way that Israel couldn’t penetrate.
This claim can only be described as unhelpful. This could be seen as a way to help Hamas, by creating a political crisis while the war continues. This story has no basis in fact, especially given Netanyahu’s history.