Ya'alon: Probe needed of navy tactics

IDF panel of experts begins investigating 'Mavi Marmara' raid.

yaalon naughty boy 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon naughty boy 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The naval operation to prevent a flotilla of international aid ships from breaking the Israel-imposed sea blockade on Gaza last week needs to be investigated on a tactical level, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday, in the first sign of criticism of the operation by a top cabinet minister.
“The decision not to allow the flotilla to reach Gaza was the right decision,” Ya’alon said during a meeting with local council heads in the Knesset. “The soldiers’ decision to open fire was made in self-defense. The soldiers and commanders are deserving of praise and appreciation for their bravery – but in the same place that medals are given out, it is also necessary to investigate the military planning of the operation.”
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The critical comments by Ya’alon were the first made by a senior cabinet minister regarding last week’s operation, which ended with nine dead passengers – all of them, according to the IDF, part of a group of well-trained mercenaries who violently attacked the navy commandos as they boarded the ship.
Ya’alon was acting prime minister at the time of the operation, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Canada for high-level diplomatic talks.
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson slammed Ya’alon and claimed that in his remarks, the deputy prime minister had implied that the operation had been flawed from the outset and had not gone through the correct decision-making process.
“There is no limit to Ya’alon and Netanyahu’s attempts to evade responsibility,” Hasson said.
Also Tuesday, a panel of military experts – set up by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi – began investigating the flotilla operation.
Headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, the former head of the National Security Council, the panel is expected to collect testimony from Ashkenazi, navy head V.-Adm. Eli Marom and other senior officers involved in planning the operation.
Meanwhile, the government still appeared to be waiting Tuesday to ensure that it would have the backing of the US and key players in Europe before making a formal announcement regarding the type of probe it would establish.
One diplomatic official said that Israel’s friends abroad, such as Germany and France, were entreating the government to “help us help you” – meaning they wanted Israel to set up an independent and credible body to investigate the events.
If Israel is able to get the US, as well as countries like France and Germany, to back the type of probe being set up, diplomatic officials said, it would be able to deflect calls – including those coming from Turkey – for an international investigation.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his inner cabinet, a forum known as the “septet,” have reportedly agreed on the establishment of an Israeli committee made up of jurists and diplomats who would probe the legality of the blockade on Gaza, as well as the manner in which Israel prevented the flotilla from reaching the territory.
The probe is expected to question the political echelon and senior military officials, but not the soldiers who took part in the raid. The committee is also expected to include two foreign observers – one from the US, and the other from another, as-yet-unnamed country.
Diplomatic officials said the US was keen on the involvement of another country, not wanting to be the only international representative on the committee.