When State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss last week published his scathing
report on Israel’s handling of the May 2010 Gaza flotilla affair, I, sadly, did
not emit a “What took you so long?” or even a “So what else is new?” I barely
managed an “I told you so,” but I take no pleasure in that.
The report is
important for pinpointing deficiencies in the decision-making procedure – but
only as important as implementation of its recommendations. The value of
Lindenstrauss’s assessment lies in changes being instituted before any final
decision is taken regarding possible non-diplomatic action against nuclearizing
Iran, or the need for any other operations that have yet to hit the public
The initial publication of the report was accompanied by
staccato-like headlines fired in rapid succession, sounding strangely familiar.
The lack of coordination and consultation between the various bodies affected by
the operation is not new. In fact, many of the criticisms sounded like those of
the Winograd Commission’s findings into the handling of the Second Lebanon War
in 2006, during Ehud Olmert’s watch.
As expected, the latest report
underlines the special relationship between Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
The prime minister and defense minister trust each other as only two veterans
from the same elite IDF unit can, and they are reluctant to let others into
their old boys’ club.
Apparently they were more influenced by the famous
(and successful) operations of their younger days and less by today’s
battlefield in cyberspace and the world media.
Sending in the commandos,
even armed incongruously with paintball guns rather than with guns blazing, was
destined to grab the worst type of attention.
Hours before the operation
took place, I metaphorically crossed my fingers, clenched my teeth, and prayed
that there would not be a confrontation.
As I said at the time, I would
have preferred to see the flotilla being bombarded with roses and notes
reminding the activist passengers of why there is a naval blockade on Gaza in
the first place (and anyone who has forgotten should ask a resident of Sderot or
other southern communities that have suffered years of missile
Some lessons do seem to have been learned: The subsequent flotilla
and “flytillas,” for example, were largely prevented at source – before the
“peaceniks” could be caught on camera clashing with Israeli police and security
forces. Those who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport in April were greeted with a
sarcastic letter from the Prime Minister’s Office thanking them “for choosing to
make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns,” when they could have
chosen Syria, Iran or even Hamas-controlled Gaza – all a far cry from Israeli
Indeed, even when the 600-or-so participants of the (in)famous
flotilla were trying to get into Gaza – turning down Israel’s offers to deliver
their humanitarian aid through the regular channels – thousands of Gazans were
desperately trying to get out, because the Gaza Strip under Hamas rule is no
The fact that nine Turkish activists died aboard the Mavi
and 55 were injured (in addition to the nine naval commandos who were
wounded) shows that something went wrong.
Nonetheless, in all the
soul-searching, it should be remembered that the bad guys in the affair are not
Netanyahu and Barak (whatever you might think of them personally or
politically). If any prime minister should be censured for his role in the
flotilla disaster, it is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has taken
his country hostage and continues to use the Marmara to make international
His professions of dedication to justice are touching, but they
have a chilling touch. Erdogan’s decision late last month to put the Israelis
involved in the flotilla affair on trial in absentia crosses the fine line from
chutzpah into absurdity. And in case anyone was in any doubt about how the
Turkish courts will rule, keep in mind the date for the trial. It was not by
chance that October 6 was chosen.
There can be no greater symbolism than
the anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War, marked all over the Middle
East as an Arab victory over the Zionists.
Erdogan is not like those
“peace activists” taken for a ride by the Marmara’s Hamas-affiliated IHH.
Erdogan is at the helm, steering Turkey from the safety of Western waters
towards, well, it depends which way the wind blows – somewhere between Assad’s
Syria and Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
If Turkey is so interested in war crimes,
it could start by examining what is going on in these regimes.
incidentally, the Israeli parliament last week commemorated victims of the
massacre of Armenians; The Turks don’t even admit it took place.
flotilla affair has been examined by more than Lindenstrauss: In Israel, the IDF
and the state-appointed Turkel Committee have investigated the incident and
found Israel did not violate international law. When the UN Palmer Commission
report found the naval blockade of Gaza was a “legitimate security measure” to
prevent arms smuggling into Gaza, Turkey rejected the findings.
sitting in my living room in Jerusalem, could figure out that the Israeli
commandos were likely to be met by violence rather than a “welcome aboard” sign
and free cocktails, then Erdogan, in his office in Ankara certainly could have
guessed as much. Even Netanyahu and Barak had raised the issue, but not
sufficiently formulated a plan to deal with it.
Olmert as prime minister
encouraged Erdogan to become a statesman and mediate a peace treaty between
Israel and Syria. Thank heavens the initiative failed. Assad has shown his true
colors, and they are nothing like the colors of peace.
comptroller’s findings are disturbing, but they are at least a sign of
democracy. Erdogan wants to prosecute the IDF’s former top brass for its role in
the Marmara affair but he is responsible for the presence of the Islamist
activists on the ship in the first place.
There is more at stake than
Erdogan’s ego. Egypt is in disarray; Syria is a blood bath. In the New Middle
East, so different from Shimon Peres’s dream, the Turkish leader can choose
between an attempt to repair the relationship with Israel or continuing to reach
out to Tehran.
The direction he takes will affect us all.
Erdogan is not just rocking the boat, he is hijacking the ship and setting it on
a dangerous course.The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem