In January 2015, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited the northern town of Kiryat Shmona near the Lebanese border and met with 12th graders who were getting ready to enlist in the IDF. When Ya’alon was asked by a female student whether Hezbollah was digging offensive tunnels into Israel, he said that the defense establishment is not aware of such a threat.
He shared with his young audience a specific complaint by a resident of one of the communities close to the border who claimed she was hearing digging noises every night. According to Ya’alon, an examination conducted by experts who sat in her home for a whole night revealed that these were the noises of a horse in a nearby stable that stomped its hooves at night.
The enclosed video was uploaded to Facebook on January 21 2015, and went relatively viral – around 40,000 views and about 1,000 likes. It was shot in Moshav Shtula in Upper Galilee, near the Lebanese border, and shares the noises heard by local residents, who were convinced there was digging going on under their homes.
The residents feared that this was Hezbollah’s doing – digging terror tunnels in preparation for a future invasion of Israeli towns and villages. In fact, Hezbollah threatened that in the next battle against Israel, its fighters would reach the Upper Galilee, and hinted at the attack tunnels it was digging.
In the settlements near the northern border, such as Shtula and Zar’it, residents wanted to hire a private contractor to check for tunnels underground, but the IDF dismissed these complaints and did not allow the contractor to carry out excavations and inspections.
Some might argue that the Ya’alon defense establishment was aware of the digging and simply tried to prevent an early exposure of the terror tunnels, but this claim does not sit at all with the fact that this debate over digging/not digging took place a full three years ago and only today has action been taken – meaning northern Israelis have been exposed to this danger for three years.
Then there’s Ya’alon’s own much criticized objection, together with the IDF brass, to a massive action against terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip, some of which extended into Israeli territory. The state comptroller issued a scathing report of Ya’alon’s failures to confront the tunnels in a thorough and timely fashion.
And so the former DM who was always at the ready to condemn Israeli settlers for the 2015 Duma village arson – a case that is still being dragged in the courts; and an Israeli soldier (Elor Azaria) who shot a terrorist on a B’Tselem video – was apparently not very good at defending Israelis against the real danger from southern and northern tunnels.
This could be the ultimate case of tunnel vision.