Netanyahu, Barak rapped over Marmara

Decision making processes were flawed and public diplomacy was inadequate, the State Comptroller finds.

The State Comptroller report published today reveals a flawed decision-making process in the affair of the IDF takeover of the Mavi Marmara, and blames key figures for the failures: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The report has another section, which has a connection to the failures in the Marmara affair, on implementation of the National Security Council Law, concerning the body that is supposed to serve as the prime minister and the government's staff on national security issues.

On May 31, 2010, IDF forces seized the Mavi Marama, one of the ships in a flotilla heading to Gaza. The troops faced violent resistance from some of those on board, mostly Turkish nationals, and nine of the ship's passengers were killed.

"The prime minister summoned a hasty ad hoc discussion, without warning, and after some of the ships in the flotilla had already embarked… The participants in the meeting were unaware in advance of the purpose of the meeting or its content, and they had no time to prepare for it," State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss finds. He states that Netanyahu avoided holding an organized meeting by the security cabinet or by a limited ministerial forum. Barak previously blocked a discussion by the political echelon about the operational plans for the takeover of the ship.

Lindenstrauss does not spare the IDF. He says that the means it presented to the political echelon were flawed, the operational plans it drew up were insufficient, and it did not properly consider how dangerous the participants in the Turkish flotilla were.

Despite the harsh criticism, Lindenstrauss concludes that his finding of defects in the decision-making process does not indicate that the results of the takeover of the Marmara could have been different. He writes however, "The prime minister should act to ensure that the decision-making process on national security issues should be orderly, in reliance on the National Security Council under the National Security Council Law and on Ministry of Defense and defense establishment officials, and on the necessary staffs, including the raising of the relevant issues for discussion by the appropriate ministerial forum."

Leadership complacency?

Lindenstrauss finds that the top political leadership (the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister), the IDF leadership, intelligence officials, and the National Security Council knew in early 2010 about the plans to send the Turkish flotilla, and recognized that it was unlike previous flotillas. Despite assessments that violence was possible by the flotilla's participants, Netanyahu did not seek to formulate a policy for a comprehensive response by all the parties, and instead held separate one-on-one meetings with Barak and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman. These meetings were not documented.

Netanyahu did not hold any meeting with a group of ministers on the issue, except for one meeting of the forum of seven, in May 2010, just before the flotilla arrived. Representatives from the relevant bodies were absent from this ad hoc meeting. "In the decision-making process led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and within his responsibility, on the matter of the handling of the Turkish flotilla material and significant flaws were discovered," the State Comptroller writes.

PR failure: When the IDF become the national spokesman

The report also finds a public diplomacy failure in the handling of the flotilla to Gaza, and states that the reasons for this lie with Israel's bureaucracy, the lack of coordination by the parties responsible for public relations, delays in transferring information between the IDF and other public relations organizations, and technical faults.

The report states that, due to the failure to define areas of responsibility, the IDF Spokesperson's Office functioned as the spokesman and key national public diplomacy agency for Israel, which is not its function. In effect, it covered for the weaknesses in the capabilities of the other spokespersons and public diplomacy agencies.

The report states that the considerations of the IDF Spokesperson's Office delayed the transfer of the filmed material needed to explain the incident internationally.

The Prime Minister's Bureau stated in response to the report: "In the test of results, Israeli citizens are enjoying a level of security the likes of which have not been seen for many years. This security is the direct result of responsible management and determined policy. The security discussions that have been held over the past three years have been unprecedented in their scope and depth, as attested by those who have participated in them. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to convey his appreciation for the work carried out by the State Comptroller."

The Ministry of Defense said in response, "Minister of Defense Ehud Barak accepts the criticism and will act so that the defense establishment and the IDF will correct everything that needs correction. That is what has to be done and that is what we will do."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 13, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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