Analysis: Stopping a yacht with eyes on the Comptroller

Fear of upcoming report on mishandling of last flotilla, leads military and political echelon not to take chances in handling of French vessel.

French ship Dignity 311 (photo credit: IDF)
French ship Dignity 311
(photo credit: IDF)
It is amazing what fear of a scathing State Comptroller report can sometimes do in Israel. This was apparent on Tuesday by the way the military and political echelon handled the operation to stop the tiny French yacht that tried breaking Israel’s sea blockade over the Gaza Strip.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz was in the Navy’s underground command center in the Kirya overseeing the operation, OC Navy Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom was at sea with the forces and the IDF Spokesman’s Office was releasing blow-by-blow updates of the operation accompanied with pictures and real-time videos.
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Now imagine that this had been the case in May 2010, when the government sent the Navy to stop the Turkish flotilla and its lead ship – the Mavi Marmara.
Instead, then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi was at home when the operation began and was called to the Kirya when things got out of control. Then, commandos from the Navy’s Flotilla 13 – better known as the Shayetet – fast-roped down to the Mavi Marmara with paintball guns.
On Tuesday, they did not take any chances, coming armed and with snipers providing cover.
In 2010, Netanyahu was out of the country during the botched Navy raid and it took the IDF Spokesman’s Office some 10 hours to release video footage, which showed that the commandos were attacked and not the other way around. On Tuesday, Netanyahu was receiving regular updates from his military secretary and the IDF was posting videos every few minutes on YouTube.
An unfamiliar observer would be excused when thinking that all of this is a bit exaggerated when considering that the Dignity was carrying about 15 people, whose identities were known to Israeli intelligence in advance and were at no point really suspected of carrying weapons.
But this observer would be forgetting that in just a few weeks, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is expected to release what some predict will be a scathing report of the political and military echelons for the way they mishandled the last flotilla.
Expected to come under fire in the report are Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his reported refusal to cooperate with the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Council ahead of the last flotilla; Netanyahu, whose involvement in the decision-making process ahead of the last flotilla was perceived as minimal at best; Ashkenazi; and even Marom, who commanded over last year’s operation as well.
The smooth operation on Tuesday was a way for the officials above to show Lindenstrauss that while there might have been mistakes and failures last year, they have been studied and rectified. This was likely done with the hope that Lindenstrauss will tone down his critique in light of the improvements. We will have to wait and see.