PM: Israelis safer than they have been in years

In highly critical report, comptroller slams decision-making process in run-up to 2010 flotilla incident as haphazard, says prime minister failed to fully implement National Security Council Law.

Palestinian flag on flotilla (photo credit: Freedom Waves/Facebook)
Palestinian flag on flotilla
(photo credit: Freedom Waves/Facebook)
Israelis today are enjoying a level of security they have not known for years, the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday in a statement in response to two highly censorious state comptroller’s reports of the decision-making process at the highest level.
One of Micha Lindenstrauss’s reports found that the government’s decision-making process was slapdash in the the run-up to the May 31, 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed in a clash after Israeli commandos boarded the ship to prevent it from breaking the Gaza blockade.
Another of the comptroller’s reports found that there were systematic problems in the government’s overall decision-making process on national security issues because of the prime minister’s failure to fully implement the 2008 National Security Council Law.
Appearing to downplay the report, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “The security Israeli citizens are enjoying today is a direct result of responsible management and determined policy.”
The statement said the security discussions held over the last three years were “unprecedented in their breadth and depth, and those who participate will testify to that.”
The comptroller wrote that while Netanyahu has chaired hundreds of discussions on national security issues, in a majority of those meetings, the type of staff work needed to prepare for them properly – as dictated by the National Security Council Law – was not carried out.
The statement did not address one of the report’s central complaints, that Netanyahu has not sufficiently implemented the law setting up the National Security Council, and that his military liaison wields inordinate influence over a decision-making process that – by law – the NSC should coordinate and lead.
The brief statement by his office said Netanyahu wanted to express his “appreciation” for the comptroller’s work.
The statement, however, said nothing of a commitment to implement its findings.
It did say that the Lindenstrauss himself pointed out that there had been “significant progress” that has considerably enhanced the NSC’s involvement in the decision-making process.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office issued a curt response, saying that Barak accepted the criticism and would work, as he has done in the past, to ensure that the defense establishment and the IDF change what needs to be corrected.
“This is what needs to be done, and will be done,” he said.
The comptroller painted a picture of a defense establishment that has a very tight grip not only on how decisions are made, but also on how Israel presents its message afterward.
Regarding criticism in the report of the decision-making process leading up to the Mavi Marmara incident, sources inside the Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that the report found that even if the decisionmaking process had been different, there was still no guarantee the outcome would have been any better.
As proof that the decision- making procedure was not faulty, sources said the same process was used successfully last year in stopping a Gaza-bound flotilla that set forth from Greece, and two recent attempts coined “flytillas,”or flying pro-Palestinian activists into Ben-Gurion Airport.
The report criticized the prime minister for not holding a security cabinet meeting before the Mavi Marmara incident, and for relying only on an informal meeting of his group of seven ministers known as the septet. Lindenstrauss noted that Netanyahu held numerous separate meetings with the defense minister, foreign minister and other officials, but that these meetings were not suitably planned, and the proceedings were not adequately documented in a way that would help others also dealing with the issue.
The sources said that Netanyahu told the comptroller while he was preparing the report that last year’s Greek flotilla was stopped without the security cabinet or the NSC’s involvement.
The sources also pointed out that the comptroller said there was a great deal of diplomatic efforts – carried out by the prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister and others – to keep the flotilla from sailing or from reaching Gaza.
Netanyahu sent messages through third parties – as pointed out in the report – to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and received the impression that there was a “high feasibility” that the flotilla would be prevented, the sources said. According to the report, Netanyahu was only briefed a week before the Mavi Marmara set sail that Erdogan – contrary to the impression he gave – was not going to stop it.
The National Information Directorate, which the comptroller also criticized for its handling of the flotilla incident and for organizational flaws, issued a statement essentially calling on the public to look at the “half-full” part of the report.
Since the National Information Directorate was set up five years ago, its role in the decision-making process has grown, the statement read, adding that its coordination of the different public diplomacy bodies in the government is continually improving.
The report strongly criticized the handling of public diplomacy during the flotilla incident, citing a lack of centralized coordination, and the IDF Spokesman’s tendency – due to its access to data and material, and also because of its manpower – to take control of the country’s messaging.
According to the National Information Directorate’s statement, the report emphasized there has been a vast improvement in coordination since the directorate was established.
“The comptroller pointed out the recognition by the political and diplomatic echelon of the importance of public diplomacy,” the statement read.
The statement also pointed out another favorable mention in the report: progress in getting Israel’s message out on the social media and in Arabic.
“In accordance with the recommendations, formulation of a comprehensive plan to improve and correct the information apparatus will be considered,” the statement read.
In addition, the statement continued, work has already begun on fixing some of the problems the report highlights.
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, had no comment on the report, which said that its spokesman apparatus was woefully understaffed.
“We didn’t need this report to tell us that,” one official quipped.