Today, June 13, 2012, Israel State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss published his report on the Israeli government behavior in the events related to Gaza’s Freedom Flotilla of May 2010. The publication timing was not casual, Mr. Lindenstrauss delayed the report as much as he could since there was no way he could portray Netanyahu positively. As reported in America Pays for Netanyahu’s Luxury Trips, the comptroller must release his last reports before he leaves office. The report released today doesn’t look into the unjustifiable violence of the IDF during the raid, but into Netanyahu’s handling of the event. The Prime Minister turned out being rather clumsy and incompetent to the extent of causing an unnecessary disaster. In the words of the comptroller: “The decision making process regarding the dealings with the Turkish flotilla led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and under his responsibility was found to include essential and significant flaws.”
This report was published after that, on May 24, criminal charges were placed by Turkey against several IDF officers, demanding life sentences for their actions during the Flotilla events. Among them was former IDF Chief of Staff, General Gaby Ashkenazi (see Criminal Charges Placed against IDF General Ashkenazi), who plays an important role also in the State Comptroller report. General Ashkenazy behaved like a brute during the event, but before it, he issued a severe warning to Netanyahu. He was so confident that he would be ignored, that he sent the warning in an official letter to Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The document was posted weeks before the sailing date; the general claimed in it that the flotilla should be thwarted by diplomatic means before resorting to use of force. A characteristic of military mail is that it gets over-registered; neither Netanyahu nor Barak could claim not to have received it. Netanyahu didn’t even try to deny that, the comptroller found that Netanyahu held four work meetings with Ashkenazi on the issue. Yet, Netanyahu said to the comptroller “the Chief of Staff didn’t raise the issue of the threat that flotilla members posed nor did he voice any concern that violence would erupt. In the meeting at the Defense Minister’s office, the possibility that the flotilla was dangerous because of its size or the probability that shots would be fired was assessed as negligible.” Netanyahu strengthened this apparent contradiction by adding “in no place, in no discussion, not with anyone, not with the Defense Minister, not with the Chief of Sstaff, not with the Navy Commander… nowhere there was a problem with the operation raised.” These contradictions are typical of Netanyahu; in the Bibi Tours Affair he recognized the facts but claimed everything was legal (including double-billing!).
Who are Netanyahu’s friends?
Yet, the issue of the IDF early warnings seems secondary when compared to the decision making process used by Netanyahu. As after the 1973, 1982, and 2006 wars, the process was found tremendously flawed. Every time, the same errors were repeated by the political system, and the same criticism was made afterwards by the judiciary system; the Israeli Administration has successfully proved that it has the learning power of an amoeba. The comptroller’s report shows that Benjamin Netanyahu runs the Israeli government as if it were a tiny neighborhood shop, ignoring all legal procedures. The comptroller reports of awareness at all levels that the event was about to turn violent, as opposed to previous flotillas, which were thwarted peacefully. Five days before the flotilla’s arrival to Gaza, in the only relevant meeting held by the seven senior ministers, General Ashkenazi warned that a military takeover of the Mavi Marmara ship would lead to a violent confrontation. “I want to clarify that it isn’t easy, but we will do it. It is no-two minute operation,” he said and added “If anyone wants to make a drama out of it – there’s enough fuel for two or three days – not an hour… I have no doubt that there will be violence there. Let it be made clear. The people will confront us. I think it’s an illusion to think that if 20 people descend onto a ship with 400 people aboard they will be met with applause. They will fight them.” Three of the ministers—including Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor and Benny Begin—raised concerns over the IDF’s plans, inquired about the details but were silenced by Netanyahu. The comptroller claims “the meeting’s participants were unaware of the purpose of the debate and its content, and, on any account, did not have enough time to prepare for it;” thus the decision making process was centralized by Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The comptroller emphasized that the ministers received only a general overview of the flotilla, without any complete discussion as to the operation’s consequences, and didn’t hear of any alternative paths.
Netanyahu and Barak were both found at fault. “Despite the fact that information concerning the Turkish flotilla began accumulating at the beginning of 2010, and despite the recognition by the prime minister that it represented an irregular event, the decision-making process was done without proper coordination,” the comptroller wrote. The report discloses that the working meetings between Netanyahu and Barak were held without any preparation or documentation on the event. “It wasn’t clear which decisions were made during, decisions that were, on any account, not summed in writing.” In other words, nobody knows what was decided. Yet, it was obvious that Netanyahu’s government didn’t take any diplomatic steps and relied entirely on the military option. This happened while the military warned of unnecessary violence. “The decision making process regarding the dealings with the Turkish flotilla led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and under his responsibility was found to include essential and significant flaws,” the comptroller summarized the event. Sadly, no matter how serious this report is, it probably wouldn’t bring to Netanyahu’s resignation or to the placing of criminal charges against him.
Netanyahu proved being inept, causing an unnecessary massacre of civilians bringing humanitarian aid to refugees. Interestingly, the report went beyond this point, providing a collateral allusion to a point I made in the past in Is Netanyahu an Iranian Spy? State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in his official report “in reality, the Prime Minister made the decision as to the way to deal with the Turkish Flotilla based on the discussion held in this forum, and based on the recommendations of his friends.” “Netanyahu’s Friends” do not appear in this form for the first time in the Hebrew media, but this is probably the first time they appear in an official document issued by the state. The allusion is to friends who are outside the government and its related organizations; it has been explained in such a way by the major Hebrew newspapers. If we accept the report—and there is no reason to reject it, after all Israel finally admitted its error—then we must ask Mr. Netanyahu who are his secret friends. Probably he won’t answer, or will provide yet another r example of double-answering and double-billing. Yet, this is such an irresistible riddle! Should we ask CIA Director David Petreus?