Flotilla attack: Israeli military, politicians play blame-game

Israel`s military and political leadership are now at loggerheads.

Jerusalem: Amid mounting global criticism, Israel`s military and political leadership are at loggerheads blaming each other for the bungled operation against the Gaza aid flotilla that left nine people dead and dozens injured.

Insufficient intelligence available for the operation, which was carried out by elite naval commandos on May 31, also raised eyebrows on Israel`s spy agency Mossad`s role for failing to properly judge the situation.

Though Israel has been putting up a brave front outwardly justifying its raid on the ship on the grounds of preserving its autonomy, but each of the two sides – political leadership and military -- suspects the other of trying to blame it for the fiasco and consequent crisis, daily `Ha`aretz` reported today.

The politicos are pointing finger on the operation`s inadequate planning in the Navy and faulty intelligence due to which the commandos lacked a proper understanding of the kind of confrontation awaiting them.

The General Staff, however, has reportedly said that it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak who were complacent about the flotilla and assessed that the raid would not raise such world reactions.

It appears that the debate in the seven ministers` forum prior to the raid was relatively superficial and did not go into the operation`s details, the daily reported.

Netanyahu was in Canada during the raid and cut his visit short to return to Israel following the international condemnation in the wake of the incident.

It has now also become obvious that cooperation among the various groups preparing for the Gaza aid ships arrival was deficient, the report said.

The Israel Navy and General Staff had held dozens of advance meetings over weeks during preparations stage, but none of them involved other relevant offices like the Foreign Ministry or government public relations experts.

It turns out that due to the restricted involvement, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) led the preparations not only for the operation itself but for all aspects.

Israel Navy commander, Admiral Eliezer Marom, and other officials in the Navy drafted the operation with the participation of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his deputy, Major General Benny Gantz.

The IDF has blamed espionage agencies for not properly using resources in gathering intelligence about the flotilla, Ha`aretz said.

The General Staff`s intelligence section will examine the possibility that intelligence that could have improved the Navy`s preparation for taking over the ships was "stuck in the pipes" and did not reach the Navy in time, it said.

The Israel Navy is defending the raid`s operative plan and claims it provided adequate solutions even to the unexpected circumstances on board. However, criticism of the operation in the IDF is increasing.

Senior officers reportedly said over the weekend that it is important to distinguish between the combatants` bravery and their exemplary performance during the takeover and the intelligence and operational plan.

Officers have slammed the absence of the element of surprise and the decision to raid six ships simultaneously, which prevented concentrating a larger force on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, carrying 600 people and whose deck saw the deadly incident.

The kind of inquiry panel to be set up to investigate into the affair has not been decided, but the debates about its nature is said to be upping tensions between the political and defence establishments.

The favoured idea at the moment in this regard is to set up a civilian, rather than a military, inquiry commission with the possible participation of a foreign observer.


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