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Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed in an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship. DAILY NEWS Photo by Emrah Güler

Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed in an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship. DAILY NEWS Photo by Emrah Güler

Israel’s state watchdog criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday over his handling of a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turks dead and put ties with Ankara at all-time low.

In a 153-page report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss criticized the decision-making process which led to the botched pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla on May 31, 2010, which was headed by the Mavi Marmara.

“In the process of decision-making, which was led by the prime minister and under his responsibility, regarding the handling of the [flotilla], there were significant shortcomings,” Lindenstrauss wrote in the report. Netanyahu, it said, had not held any structured, formal discussion with top ministers about the flotilla, and had only held separate talks on the issue with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, none of which were properly documented.

“The prime minister did not order integrative staff work regarding the necessary policy to deal with the flotilla, instead there were personal, separate meetings, between the prime minister and the defense minister, and between the prime minister and the foreign minister, which were not documented or summarized, and there was no discussion between the prime minister and any group of ministers,” the report said.

“The only discussion that took place on the issue was in the Forum of Seven just before the flotilla arrived, an ‘ad-hoc’ discussion without any preparation,” it said, referring to Netanyahu’s inner circle of senior ministers, which is now nine in number. “The process of decision-making was done without orderly, agreed-upon, coordinated and documented staff work, despite the recognition of the senior political echelon and Israel Defense Forces chiefs, intelligence bodies and the National Security Council on the exceptional nature of the Turkish flotilla compared to previous flotillas,” it said. Although Barak and then chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi had raised fears the activists could be armed, nothing was done to plan a suitable response, it said.

Responses from Netanyahu and Barak

“The defense minister did not discuss ways of dealing with risks that emerged in consultations he himself held, including the risks he noted.”

According to the report, Netanyahu was in indirect contact with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in attempts to prevent the ships from setting sail, but failed to do so. Responding to the report, the prime minister’s office issued a statement defending its record on managing issues of state security, saying Israel was enjoying a level of security not 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 to by those who have participated in them,” it said.

Barak also responded to the report, pledging to implement the necessary changes. “Defense Minister Ehud Barak accepts the criticism and will work...to ensure that the military and defense establishment will fix all that needs to be fixed,” a statement from his office said. “That’s what should be done and that is what will be done.”

June/14/2012

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