In a document published on the eve of his resignation, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss claims that he found major fault with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his decision-making concerning the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in May 2010. The report does not focus on the illegal situation created by the fact that highly trained commandos shot and killed unarmed civilians outside of Israel’s territorial waters, which may also be an act of piracy.
The report deals solely with the technical and tactical questions arising from the military action itself.
According to the report, Netanyahu failed to orchestrate a coordinated, orderly discussion over the impending course of action; instead, he held private meetings with the defense and foreign ministers – meetings that were not documented.
Moreover, Lindenstrauss claims the prime minister failed to hold a discussion that included both the defense and the foreign minister – a dialogue that could have yielded both a diplomatic and a political effort to prevent the flotilla from leaving in the first place or bar it from getting as far as it did.
On 31 May 2010 the Israeli army raided on international waters of the Mediterranean Sea a flotilla of six ships organized by the “Gaza Freedom Movement” to attract world attention to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The first boat to be raided was the ship MV Mavi Marmara, organized and financed by the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH). The Israeli army faced resistance when boarding the ship from sea and air and see wich lead to clashes between part of the activists on board and the Israeli commandoes.
As a consequence, nine activists were killed, and many were wounded. All casualties were caused by gunshots; some of them at point blank range. The passengers in the five other flotilla ships employed passive resistance, which was suppressed without major incident. The ships were towed to Israel, where all passengers were detained and deported. Many of the passengers complained that Israel never returned their property, pointing to the possibility that it was stolen by soldiers or wardens.
The raid drew widespread international condemnation and resulted in a serious deterioration of Israel-Turkey relations. Turkey demanded that Israel apologise for its actions against Turkish citizens and to compensate the families of the murdered and injured during the raid.Israel, however, refused.
Consequently, in May 2012 a Turkish court charged four senior Israeli military commanders over the killings of the Turkish activists.Ex-military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the ex-naval chief Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former head of military intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin, and former head of the air force Brigadier General Avishai Lev.
A prosecutor of the Istanbul court has called for each of the four Israeli officers to face nine life sentences. It is expected they will be tried in absentia. If they are convicted, however, the Turkish court could issue a warrant for their arrest.
The report issued by Israel’s state comptroller does not deal with the illegal situation created by the fact that highly trained commandos shot and killed unarmed civilians outside of Israel’s territorial waters, which may also be an act of piracy. The report deals solely with the technical and tactical questions arising from the military action itself.
With this same logic, the comptroller writes about the propaganda damages to Israel’s image by the operation. His report points to problems in the division of responsibility between the Foreign Ministry and the army. He explains that delay in the transfer of photographic material critical for Israel’s public response to the raid was largely due to the army’s sensitivities in domestic public relations.
Yet the damages to Israel were larger than a re-branding problem. The incapacity of Israel to understand the costs of its actions against foreign nationals ended its special relationship with Turkey, as well as the military and economic cooperation between the countries. Israeli politicians initially attempted to explain that this is not a major problem as the country’s economic and military relations with Greece were consequently improved. Greece, however, is currently on the verge of collapse.
* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)