In a long-awaited special report published Wednesday, State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss revealed serious failures in the prime minister’s decision-making
process in the run-up to the 2010 Turkish Mavi Marmara incident.
report blasts as unsystematic and disorganized the decision-making processes at
the most senior political and defense echelons prior to the IDF takeover of the
flotilla on May 31, 2010.
Lindenstrauss said there had been no proper
Security Cabinet discussion prior to the flotilla incident, and criticized
Netanyahu for acting without systematic, coordinated and documented staff work,
even though senior political and defense leaders were aware the flotilla was far
more serious than previous ventures.
Six flotilla ships attempted to sail
to Gaza in May 2010, intent on breaking Israel’s naval blockade of the
Hamas-controlled strip. Around 600 flotilla protesters were on the main ship,
the Mavi Marmara
, owned by the Hamas-linked Turkish Islamic group
When the IDF seized control of the flotilla vessels, it encountered
severe violence from the Mavi Marmara
passengers, nine of whom were killed in
the ensuing clash. Nine naval commanders and 55 passengers were also
The incident severely damaged Israel’s relations with Turkey and
caused a wave of international condemnation of Israel’s handling of the
The report, the result of a comprehensive audit Lindenstrauss
undertook between June 2010 and May 2011, revealed that in the run-up to the
flotilla incident, Netanyahu led an “uncoordinated” decision-making process,
even though senior political and defense leaders were aware the Mavi Marmara
would be “exceptional” compared with previous flotillas.
minister did not instruct for an integrated policy to adequately deal with the
flotilla, Lindenstrauss said, but instead held separate, private meetings with
the defense and foreign ministers.
Details of those meetings were not
formally documented and so it was unclear what decisions had been taken, the
Lindenstrauss said Netanyahu raised the flotilla issue
during a May 26, 2010, informal meeting of his group of seven ministers, known
as the septet.
However, the report criticizes that the septet debated the
flotilla and possible naval intervention only at the very end of its session
that day, and without any prior preparation by the group’s
Several key ministers, including Justice Minister Yaakov
Neeman and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, whose roles include
decision-making on security issues, are not septet members and were therefore
not privy to that flotilla discussion, the report found.
from the various security forces and the National Security Council did not
attend the septet meeting, even though they had professional expertise and
knowledge on the matter, and senior military officials were also not present,
including those who were to play a significant role in conducting the flotilla
The omission of IDF and NSC representatives from the
discussion was a serious violation of the rules of staff work on security
issues, and violated the 2008 NSC Law, Lindenstrauss said.
also concluded that the septet’s flotilla discussion had not complied with the
Winograd Committee’s recommendations made after the Second Lebanon War, nor with
the appropriate format for decision- making on national security issues
recommended by the Lipkin- Shahak steering group, which had been tasked with
implementing the Winograd recommendations.
In concluding his report,
Lindenstrauss emphasized that both the Winograd and Lipkin-Shahak Committees,
and his own office had given previous recommendations for political
Regarding the NSC’s role, or lack of role, in
the flotilla decision-making process, Lindenstrauss said that even though the
senior political echelons had clearly recognized the severity of the Turkish
flotilla, Netanyahu had not instructed the NSC to carry out staff work on the
The NSC itself conducted a meeting on the flotilla issue only on
May 12, 2010, and did not integrate dealing with the flotilla into its staff
work, Lindenstrauss noted, adding that the IDF and Defense Ministry did not
cooperate when the NSC requested them to do so.
Lindenstrauss noted that
a senior Prime Minister’s Office official had acted under Netanyahu’s guidance
to conduct extensive flotilla-related activities, which he said indicated the
office’s staff were aware the flotilla was exceptional compared to past
“However, the actions that official took – whether they had been
led by the prime minister or under his own initiative – as important as they
were, were no substitute for the work of an organized staff nor for integration
between the various interested parties, which the NSC should have done,”
The state comptroller noted Defense Minister Ehud
Barak’s response to the draft version of the report, in which Barak stated that
after the flotilla incident, his office and the NSC had agreed to place a senior
defense ministry official in the NSC, and as a result, the level of coordination
and cooperation between the two bodies had improved significantly.
military officials also came under fire in the report.
Barak and then IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi raised concerns about
a possible violent response from the flotilla activists, it was believed the IDF
would be able to stop the flotilla, the report said.
However, the audit
revealed that the IDF did not formulate a course-ofaction (COA) regarding a
possible violent response from the flotilla passengers.
As a result, no
senior political officials presented or discussed a COA.
Barak had raised
the issue of potential military intervention on the flotilla in various
meetings, Lindenstrauss said.
However, the report found that the defense
minister had neither tested nor examined the IDF’s readiness to deal with any
dangerous actions by the flotilla passengers, although he discussed the
possibility that the passengers might carry out such actions.
said that it welcomed the criticism and was committed to working together with
the comptroller’s office to implement the findings and
The IDF noted that immediately after the flotilla
operation, it decided on its own to launch an investigative committee to probe
the military’s performance ahead of and during the actual raid on the Mavi
“Important lessons were learned and applied immediately in all
of the different areas involved in the flotilla and in dealing with additional
flotillas in the future,” the IDF said in its response to the report.
IDF noted that the stateappointed Turkel Committee had ruled that the IDF
operation was permitted according to international law and that the seizure of
the ships was also legal. The IDF said that the preparations ahead of the
flotilla were comprehensive and that senior Navy commanders were deployed on
ships at sea to oversee the operation, a demonstration of how the military took
Regarding the public relations side of the operation, the
IDF noted that responsibility was put in the hands of the Prime Minister’s
Office, and that in earlier meetings, it was decided that the IDF Spokesman’s
Office would only be responsible for explaining the military aspects of the
The IDF admitted that it delayed the release of a statement on
the operation and the famous video which shows the passengers aboard the Mavi
attacking the Navy commandos due to differences between the “military
and political echelons” as well as the result of “unclear military
With a nod to a separate section of the report dealing with
government failures in implementing the NSC Act, Lindenstrauss said it was the
prime minister’s responsibility to ensure decision-making on issues of national
security is an orderly process, that includes the NSC.
noted his criticisms did not imply that better decision making would have
resulted in a better outcome for the flotilla incident, but rather that
implementing his recommendations and those of previous reports would improve
decision-making in future national security crises.
Mark Regev thanked the comptroller for his work and said “Israel’s democratic
process includes institutional mechanisms for independent
Regev reiterated that despite criticisms in the report, “the
panel established by the UN secretary-general to investigate the flotilla
incident clearly ruled that the maritime blockade to prevent weapons reaching
the terrorists in Gaza is legitimate self-defense and that Israel’s decision to
intercept the flotilla was indeed legal under international
Ultimately, Regev said, “weapons that reach Hamas in Gaza end up
being used against Israeli civilians.”