Bibi testifies at Turkel Committee.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
One lesson the country gleaned Monday from the first day of the Turkel committee probing the Gaza flotilla raid was that the country internalizes little from these types of committees.
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Some two and a-half year after the Winograd Commission looking into the Second Lebanon War cast light on a serious malfunction in the country's decision making process before opting to go to that war, so too it became apparent - during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's testimony on the first day of the Turkel hearings - that there was a lack of coordination between the military and political hierarchies on the way to the botched flotilla raid.
Netanyahu, in the segment of his testimony Monday that was public, boasted of Israel's capacity at self-criticism, and capacity for investigating itself.
"To those who argue that Israel does not investigate itself according to accepted international standards, I say: It would be good if many countries around the world were investigating themselves according to the high standards set by Israel," he said.
Indeed. But it is one thing to set up committee to investigate, and quite another to actually learn from those investigations.
The Winograd Committee which pre-occupied the country for a year and a half after the Second Lebanon War issued a report highly critical of the political and military decision making process before and during the war, saying there was a lack of "interface" - a favorite word in that report - between the military and political echelons.
That lack of "interface" seemed glaring in Netanyahu's testimony as well.
Netanyahu said that when it became clear several days before the flotilla's arrival that the diplomatic efforts to stop it would bear no fruit, "I decided to convene 'the Septet' in order to prepare for the event in a coordinated manner in terms of the media, public relations and diplomacy. Since this would be a media event surrounding a military operation, in addition to the Ministers, I invited the Chief of General Staff, representatives of the Foreign Ministry and members of the National Information Directorate to the discussion."
Netanyahu said he asked to receive an "update regarding recent diplomatic and communication efforts, and to hear additional ideas as to how to minimize the public relations and diplomatic costs of a confrontation that already seemed inevitable. At the end of the meeting, I authorized diplomatic and communication assignments as I was about to leave for a very important meeting with the President of the United States," he said.
He also told the committee that before leaving for a visit that took him
first to France, Canada, and then a visit that was added on at the last
minute to the US for a meeting with US President Barack Obama, he put
Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak in charge of the flotilla issue "in all of
But strains of a lack of interface between the military/political
echelons criticized by the Winograd Commission could be heard in
Netanyahu's words. Granted, the diplomatic and communications aspect of
the flotilla were important, and should have been dealt with by the
septet, but they were no less important than the operational aspects,
which were apparently not addressed by that body.
If true, that would indicate again a lack of coordination between he
military and political echelons - just the type of lack of coordination
the Winograd committee bewailed in January 2008.
It's great, and the sign of a healthy democracy that wants to improve
itself, to set up investigative committees. But if their conclusions are
not internalized, then - one might task - what's the use?