Turkel Committee 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
If the public didn’t already know about the tension between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, it would have been excused for thinking they were the ones who wrote the Turkel Commission report released on Sunday. It just couldn’t have been more favorable for Israel, the Defense Ministry and the IDF.
In its report, the committee determined that the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip was legal, as was the decision to stop the flotilla as it made its way in international waters toward Gaza. At the same time, the IDF – particularly the navy – was also vindicated.
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Even when the committee appeared to start criticizing the IDF for the so-called intelligence failure that led the IDF to send naval commandos to board the Mavi Marmara
with non-lethal weapons, the panel seemed, even there, to find a way out for the IDF.
The report’s findings did not come as a surprise and did a great job at convincing the convinced.
Appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to investigate the IDF operation to stop the flotilla, as well as the legality of the blockade on Gaza, Turkel knew what everyone else knew immediately after watching the videos from the Mavi Marmara’s upper deck – that the soldiers were the ones who were lynched.
Still, Israel can take some pride in the way it investigates itself, compared to, say, the Turkish committee set up by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Israeli committee worked on its report for seven months, while the Turkish panel sat for a mere three weeks. The Israeli commission had almost complete transparency, with open hearings, a website and regular press releases. The Turkish probe had none of that.
Netanyahu made a shrewd decision to appoint two foreign observers to sit on the committee, to counter claims that Israel could not investigate itself – as Erdogan claimed on Sunday, after the Turkel Report came out.
While this vindication is important for Israel, the real test still lies ahead: whether United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki moon will accept the Turkel committee’s conclusions at face value and as a credible investigative report.
Even if he does, there is no hiding the fact that Israeli-Turkish
relations are still at the lowest point ever in the two countries’ joint
history, and eight months after the Mavi Marmara
was stopped, there does not appear to be any resolution in sight.
While the Foreign Ministry tends to play down the significance of those
ties, the defense establishment does not. Within the IDF there is real
concern about the changes taking place throughout the Middle East –
among them the growing Turkish- Iranian alliance.