Former Navy commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Marom dismissed media speculation that he had been held at London’s Heathrow Airport upon arriving in England on Monday because the Mavi Marmara incident happened under his watch.
“I was questioned for five minutes or less,” he told Army Radio on Monday night. “It was in the immigration hall, I was not taken to a side room,” Marom said.
“They asked me some questions. They took my passport. But they did not even ask me half a question about the issue [of the Mavi Marmara].”
Marom explained that he understood that the incident in which someone at his level was questioned for even five minutes was unusual.
Still, he noted, “it was not an investigation. I was in the regular immigration hall.”
Marom did not elaborate as to what kind of questions he was asked.
The British embassy in Tel Aviv said it had no comment on the matter. The Foreign Ministry is investigating the matter.
The incident immediately generated headlines in Israel because if was reminiscent of past attempts in England to arrest and potentially bring to trial for alleged war crimes then-defense minister Ehud Barak and canceled trips by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni because of her previous role as foreign minister.
Being questioned while traveling in Europe has also been a concern for senior IDF officials due to lawsuits drawn up by pro- Palestinian organizations, but has never amounted to any arrests.
However, the incident was also unexpected as most recently the British government changed its law to prevent private individuals from seeking such arrests without government approval – which the British government had clearly signaled it would not give.
Former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi appointed Marom commander of the Israel Navy in August 2007, in place of Maj.-Gen. David Ben-Bashat.
Marom had served in the past as deputy commander of the Navy and head of Naval Intelligence, and played a key role in the capture of the PLO’s Karine A weapons ship in 2002.
After his predecessor Ben- Bashat was appointed commander of the Navy, Marom was sent to Singapore as the IDF’s military delegate, ahead of planned retirement.
He was later brought back to command the Navy following Ben-Bashat’s resignation during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
He was head of the Navy in May 2010 when it stopped a flotilla of Gaza bound ships that wanted to break Israel’s naval blockade of the strip. The naval forces killed nine of the activists on board in clashes that broke out when they boarded the ship.