Barak Turkel 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Following in the footsteps of the prime minister and the defense minister, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi was scheduled to give his testimony to the Turkel Committee investigating the Gaza flotilla incident on Wednesday.
In his testimony before the committee on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak assumed “overall responsibility” for the decision to send navy commandos to intercept the Turkish ships en route to Gaza on May 31, but later appeared to pass some of the responsibility to the IDF, saying that it was up to the military to warn the government if “the mission cannot be carried out.
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“The army [officials]
honestly described the difficulties [that would be faced in the mission], but
stressed that even though it would not be simple, they could carry it out.
Clearly, it’s vital for the army to clarify the significance of the mission, and
here, they [army officials] said, there will be friction, there will be
difficult images, and maybe even injuries, but they said this could be done,”
“The military echelon must say if the mission can’t be
carried out,” Barak continued. “The political echelon decided to stop the
flotilla. It decides on what [to do], and the military echelon decides on how
[to do it],” he said.
“Operations don’t always end the way we want...
Such is life,” he added.
Barak said he still backs the decision to stop
the flotilla, adding that it remained “the right and reasonable” course of
“I take overall responsibility for what happens in systems that
are subordinate to me, including the IDF. I take full responsibility as a
minister for instructing the military echelon... including on the flotilla
incident,” he said.Barak contradicts testimony of Netanyahu
During his appearance, Barak appeared to directly
contradict testimony given to the committee by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
a day earlier.
Netanyahu had said that the inner cabinet met before the
navy operation, but only discussed the media and public diplomacy angles of the
But Barak said cabinet ministers at the meeting also discussed
military aspects of the operation, and received an intelligence
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and the head
of the Research Department of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate
answered questions from the ministers that touched on operational issues, Barak
“The decision to stop the flotilla with a commando raid was taken
by the premier, a forum of seven minister, and myself,” he said.
the inner cabinet meeting, “ministers without portfolios but with a lot of
common sense raised questions,” Barak added.
At the end, the ministers
backed the operation, he said. “It wasn’t a decision between good and bad, but
between the lesser of two evils,” Barak remarked.
The defense minister
described the flotilla as a planned provocation aimed at embarrassing Israel and
breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
“We have an excellent chief of staff,
excellent commanders, and excellent soldiers,” he said.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, who recently headed an IDF committee of inquiry
into the flotilla, attacked the government for failing to take proper
responsibility for the incident, during an Israel Radio interview on
Eiland said there was no dialogue between the government and
military command aimed at finding solutions to stopping the flotilla.
also rejected the idea that the military’s relationship with the
hierarchical, and said the army was not restricted to receiving and
orders from the government.
The government should have initiated a plan
to ease restrictions on Gaza in exchange for preventing confrontations
the flotilla, Eiland said.