Jerusalem: Shirking away from accepting
responsibility for the deadly raid aboard a Gaza-bound aid
flotilla, the senior Israeli leadership seems to be pointing a
finger of blame on the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) as an
internal probe panel started investigating the incident.
Speaking before the Turkel Commission probing the
raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud
Barak on Tuesday contradicted a claim made by Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday but also supported him on another
blaming the IDF for the outcome.
Netanyahu had yesterday told the commission of
enquiry that the high-profile `seven ministers forum` only
discussed the media aspects of stopping the flotilla and did
not address the operational aspects.
"The decision to stop the flotilla, which was
made by the Prime Minister and the seven-minister forum was
made after examining the entire situation and the dilemmas,"
Barak said, stressing that "the discussion that was held by
the seven-minister forum dealt not only with the media aspects
of stopping the flotilla, but also with the military aspects."
The defence minister went on to say that the
IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the head of the
military`s research department were present at the meeting,
and answered all the ministers` questions on the professional
aspects of the operation.
"During the deliberations, the chief of staff
repeatedly expressed his concern with the public-media affect
of using force to stop the flotilla. He stressed to the
ministers, `It won`t be easy, but we will carry out the
mission`," Barak told the panel.
During the seven-minister forum discussion,
Barak said that "colourful and detailed alternatives" were
raised and some even proposed not to stop the sail and to
allow it to enter Gaza.
"There was no way that people didn`t understand
the situation. Ministers without portfolios but with a lot of
brains immediately raised questions," Barak, who is also the
Chairman of left of centre Labour party said.
Ultimately the ministers supported stopping the
flotilla despite what that would entail because "the choice
was not between good and bad, but a choice between two bad
options," he said.
He stressed that he stands behind the ministers`
decision, which he called "right and reasonable."
"What will stand for the next time, is the
systematic learning of lessons, probes and constructive
criticism and not ignoring the difficult reality," Barak
Netanyahu during his submission yesterday was
asked by former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, who is
heading the five member panel, whether or not it was the IDF
which decided the means by which to halt the flotilla.
The Premier responded, "Yes, that`s standard
procedure." The Israeli leader added that it is the role of
politicians "to determine policy" while "it is up to the
military to execute it."
The May 31 raid aid on a Gaza-bound Turkish
aid ship had left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead.
When asked by the commission how the decision on
military action was received, Netanyahu said that that all of
those involved "felt that the raid was a last resort, and the
instructions were to conduct it with as little friction as
"The IDF had looked into several options, as per
my instructions, but also according to the instructions of the
defence minister and the chief of staff," he said.
Barak, who in the past has been a decorated soldier in
the IDF, said"I spent most of my life in operations. The
difference between success and complications is as thin as a
strand of hair. Here, the goal of stopping the sail was
achieved. I salute the IDF fighters and expect them to learn
all the lessons from the probes. We have an excellent military
and chief of staff, and excellent fighters,".
However on a different note, Barak seemed to back the
Israeli Prime Minister by pointing the finger of blame on the
army for the disastrous outcome.
"There was confusion in the public debate
regarding the political echelon and the military`s
authorities. The political echelon decides what needs to be
done and takes responsibility. The military echelon decides
how it should be done and takes responsibility.
"Obviously, the political echelon cannot assign
tasks that cannot be carried out. In the case in question the
military echelon did not say it cannot be carried out. They
said, `It will be difficult, but will do it.` They did not say
how it should be done, and rightfully so.
"They said there would be distressing images, but they
did not say it couldn`t be done and they even said the
opposite," the Defence Minister asserted.
"If the decision was right, then the gap between
what we wanted and what happened is the execution," he noted.
In a scathing criticism of Netanyahu`s stand,
opposition party Kadima has accused him of betraying the IDF
by turning it into a "punching bag".
"Netanyahu`s testimony before the Turkel
commission proves, once again, that there is no leadership,"
Kadima said in a press release.
"At the moment of truth, he put the blame on
others and made the IDF into a punching-bag," the statement
A separate Israeli military inquiry had found that
the military intelligence had failed to predict the violent
response onboard the Turkish vessel, and troops went in
unprepared, but it reached the conclusion that the commandos
had acted properly.