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'PM making IDF into punching bag'
By JPOST.COM STAFF
09/08/2010
Livni slams Netanyahu, offers to testify before Turkel Commission.
 
Kadima accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday of "turning the IDF into a punching bag" at the Turkel Committee hearing to avoid blame for the May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.

In his closing testimony to the committee, Netanyahu accepted responsibility for the incident, saying, "As prime minister, the general responsibility is always mine, whether I am in Israel or if I am abroad, and that includes this case."

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Netanyahu was abroad to meet US President Barack Obama when the flotilla raid occurred.

"Netanyahu's testimony to the Turkel commission proves, once again, that there is no leadership," said Kadima. "At the moment of truth, he put the blame on others and made the IDF into a punching-bag."

The criticism stemmed from Netanyahu's statement that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in charge of the flotilla takeover operation.

In his testimony, Netanyahu reportedly said that, while he was America, he told Barak to take care of the situation. He added that in ministers' meetings before the Turkish flotilla arrived, the ministers did not discuss taking action, but focused on the media's reaction to it.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni wrote the Turkel Committee on Monday night asking to allow her to testify about her role in the decision to impose a maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip when she was foreign minister in Ehud Olmert's government.

She said she wanted to present all the diplomatic and security considerations that went into the decision, which she said Netanyahu did not explain properly in his testimony.

"Unlike Netanyahu, who proved today that he does not take responsibility in the moment of truth and throws it on others, Livni accepts responsibility and asks to appear before the committee," a source close to Livni said.

The prime minister was the first to testify at the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of May 31 2010, which is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel.

During the public portion of his testimony, Netanyhu defended Israel's actions in taking over the Mavi Marmara ship in the flotilla, saying he was convinced the committee would see that Israel and the IDF acted according to international law, and that the IDF commandos on the Marvi Marmara exhibited "unusual courage" in defending themselves against a clear and present danger to their lives.

Netanyahu called Israel a "rare breed" of democracy in the Middle East, and said "there is no state or army that investigates itself more than Israel and the IDF."

The Prime Minister then took the offensive and said that in order to deal with the flotilla incident as a whole, it was necessary to clarify the government's policy toward Hamas.

Netanyahu condemned Hamas for war crimes, and Iran for funneling rockets and weapons to the Gaza Strip. He clarified his goals and policies toward the Palestinians living in the Strip, saying his priorities were to free Schalit, react immediately to all rocket attacks coming from Gaza,  prevent weaponry from entering the Strip, and prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Gill Hoffman contributed to this report.
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