'Comptroller must probe readiness to face Iran threat'

Head of Knesset State Control Committee warns that Lindenstrauss’s scathing report on flotilla raid raises concerns about decision-making process.

Mavi Marmara Raid 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mavi Marmara Raid 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Slapdash decision-making by the country’s senior political and defense officials could leave Israel vulnerable to other threats, including from Iran, MK Uri Ariel (National Union), who chairs the Knesset’s State Control Committee, warned on Thursday.
Ariel made his comments during a special session of the committee called in the wake of a harsh report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the high-level decision-making that led to the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident.
Israeli naval commandos boarded the vessel to prevent it from breaching the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Activists on board attacked the commandos and nine Turkish men, including one who also had US citizenship, were killed.
Lindenstrauss found that the government’s decision-making had been uncoordinated and haphazard.
Ariel said he planned to invite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss the report’s findings with regard to current plans for addressing the threat to Israel posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
Referring to Lindenstrauss’s lengthy flotilla audit, Ariel said that in the case of the Iranian nuclear program the state comptroller “wouldn’t have the privilege of investigating failures after the fact.”
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said in response to the report that Israelis were enjoying a level of security they have not known for years, and that this was a “direct result of responsible management and determined policy.”
However, as Thursday’s meeting opened, Ariel dubbed the report’s findings “disturbing” in light of the challenges facing the country and added that the flotilla had caused Israel far-reaching political damage with Turkey.
Ron Israel, a representative of the State Comptroller’s Office, said the prime minister failed to hold joint meetings with the relevant parties ahead of the flotilla to discuss the issue.
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) also criticized the prime minister by saying Netanyahu had completely disregarded the law by leaving the National Security Council out of the decision- making process.
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud) said, however, that the prime minister had acted properly in the run-up to the flotilla.
According to Begin, Netanyahu held many security-related meetings and provided opportunities for the NSC and intelligence officials to express their opinions. During those meetings, he added, Lt.-Gen.
(res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, at the time chief of staff, raised the possibility that Mavi Marmara passengers might use force against the IDF.
Begin, who is a member of the security cabinet, the so-called septet, admitted that serious mistakes had been made in the runup to the raid.
“We were wrong about the flotilla,” he said. “If the expectations about the operation had been consistent with the outcome, we would have prepared differently.”
Referring to criticism that the prime minister had not called for any staff work on the flotilla, Begin said that even the best staff work did not necessarily prevent errors. He added that the onus for the mistakes was on the government and that he had no complaints against Ashkenazi or the troops who seized the vessel.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who heads the National Security Council, dubbed the body the “new kid on the block” and said more time was needed to integrate it into the policymaking framework.
“Things are much better than before, and the current situation is much better than it was at the time of the flotilla,” Amidror said.
Referring to criticism by Lindenstrauss that the IDF had delayed the release of footage from the navy’s takeover of the ship, Ariel demanded an explanation from the deputy IDF spokesman, Col. Shai Stern. Stern had no answer but said the IDF had greatly improved its technological capabilities for public diplomacy since the flotilla.