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Report criticises Netanyahu over 2010 flotilla raid

Israel's State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a report Wednesday that sharply criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a 2010 pre-dawn raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turks dead and ties with Ankara in shreds.


AFP - Israel's state watchdog criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday over his handling of a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turks dead and ties with Ankara in shreds.

In a 153-page report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss slammed the decision-making process that led to the botched pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla on May 31, 2010, which was headed by the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ferry carrying more than 600 people.

The assault triggered an international outcry and a lingering diplomatic crisis between once-close allies Israel and Turkey, with Ankara demanding a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victims.

"In the process of decision-making, which was led by the prime minister and under his responsibility, regarding the handling of the (flotilla), there were significant shortcomings," Lindenstrauss wrote in the report.

Netanyahu, it said, had not held any structured, formal discussion with top ministers about the flotilla, and had only held separate talks on the issue with Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, none of which were properly documented.

"The prime minister did not order integrative staff work regarding the necessary policy to deal with the flotilla, instead there were personal, separate meetings, between the prime minister and the defence minister, and between the prime minister and the foreign minister, which were not documented or summarised, and there was no discussion between the prime minister and any group of ministers," the report said.

"The only discussion that took place on the issue was in the Forum of Seven just before the flotilla arrived, an 'ad-hoc' discussion without any preparation," it said, referring to Netanyahu's inner circle of ministers which now numbers nine.

"The process of decision-making was done without orderly, agreed-upon, coordinated and documented staff work, despite the recognition of the senior political echelon and IDF (Israel Defence Forces) chiefs, intelligence bodies and the National Security Council on the exceptional nature of the Turkish flotilla compared to previous flotillas," it said.

And although Barak and then chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi had raised fears the activists could be armed, nothing was done to plan a suitable response.

Reacting to the report, the premier's office issued a statement defending its record on security, saying Israel was enjoying a level of safety not seen "for many years."

"This security is the direct result of responsible management and determined policy. The security discussions that have been held over the past three years have been unprecedented in their scope and depth, as attested to by those who have participated in them," it said.

It also referred to a UN report on the flotilla, published last year, which endorsed the legality of Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, while chiding the Jewish state for using "excessive force" in preventing its arrival.

National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror said it was not clear that handling the raid differently would have ensured a better result, but that the decision-making process had improved greatly since then.

"The State Comptroller himself says that he is not at all sure that there is a link between a different process and better results," he said, adding the authorities had better handled subsequent attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to reach Gaza and the West Bank.

"The result in these was different. If one looks at all these events, one understands that the decision-making process is much, much better," he said, indicating they were managed with "an orderly decision-making process."

Barak also responded to the report, pledging to implement the necessary changes.

"Defence Minister Ehud Barak accepts the criticism and will work... to ensure the military and defence establishment will fix all that needs to be fixed," a statement from his office said.

"That's what should be done and that is what will be done."

But opposition head Shelly Yachimovich found fault not only in the actions but also main subjects of the report.

"I read the report, it is infuriating," she said. "It reveals a complacent prime minister, who makes decisions on his own and with defence minister Barak, in an irresponsible process seeping with excessive self-confidence."

"Barak and Netanyahu's vast experience not only did not help, but seems to have made them think they could do everything on their own, as a pair, without sufficient knowledge and without examining alternatives," Yachimovich said.

Commentators were quick to put the report by the outgoing-comptroller into a wider context.

"The most important thing is the comptroller's legacy," said Israel public radio's Hanan Crystal.

"What he's really saying here is 'Don't take decisions on Iran in the same manner, there you should have organised decision-taking'."

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