Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon admitted on Tuesday that last week's deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla was a failure, saying that "in a place where citations should have been given, someone failed to prepare a standard operating procedure."
Speaking during a meeting with council heads from the Likud party, Ya'alon said that "the decision was right, but there is room for improvement –and I am not going to elaborate."
Ya'alon, who served as acting prime minister at the time of the operation due to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on an official visit to Canada, praised the commandos who took over the Gaza-bound flotilla. "The fighting on the deck was heroic and took place under impossible conditions," he said, while adding that "there were some malfunctions during the planning and operational stages."
"I warned of this before the incident," the minister said.
Operational failures? Soldier beaten during raid (Photo: AFP)
'Ya'alon responsible for SOP'
A senior IDF official said in response to the remarks that "since Ya'alon was the acting prime minister at the time of the incident, he is responsible.
"If there wasn't a standard operating procedure, why didn't he make sure there was one? Why didn't he hold a consultation several hours after the flotilla incident and send the ministers to give interviews to the press? He was the acting prime minister and it was his responsibility.
The official added, "Ya'alon could have ensured what the army had and what it didn't have before the operation, and his remarks are an attempt to shirk responsibility ahead of the commission of inquiry.
A senior state official was unsatisfied with the remarks as well, saying that "Ya'alon must have forgotten who was the acting prime minister at the time and who should have dealt with all the details of the operation. He is beginning to prepare the ground for the commission of inquiry and is preparing an alibi for himself ahead of the investigation."
During Tuesday's meeting with Ya'alon, Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel complained that council heads were not being utilized in Israel's PR efforts. "We are in contact with Jewish organizations all over the world, and we have all the necessary documentation. It's a shame were are not being put to work," he said.
Kadima MK: PM should fire Ya'alon
The Kadima opposition party interpreted Ya'alon's remarks as holding the IDF accountable, although others saw them as an attack on Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Knesset Member Yoel Hasson, chairman of the State Control Committee, said in response: "It appears that someone has not been acting according to a standing operating procedure, because those who sent the IDF's soldiers on a mission which was doomed to fail, without any proper decision making procedure, are not ashamed to hold the Navy heroes responsible."
Kadima Faction Chairwoman Dalia Itzik said she was considering submitting a no-confidence motion against the government following the minister's remarks. Itzik told Ynet that Ya'alon was "preparing an alibi for the commission of inquiry."
MK Ze'ev Boim said, "We would expect Minister Ya'alon, a former chief of staff, to be a bit more modest – especially in light of the IDF's problematic performance in the Second Lebanon war, which illustrated the army's faulty preparedness during his term. Ya'alon should wait patiently for the professional investigations to be completed."
MK Majalli Whbee joined the criticism, saying that "Bogie Ya'alon is just the symptom of an arrogant government, which will never admit a mistake and is a champion in rolling the responsibility to its subordinates.
"Those who are to blame for the failures are Ya'alon and the members of the seven dwarves' forum, who didn't ask questions, and today are trying to shirk responsibility and accuse the Navy fighters, who did all they could to emerge from the jam Ya'alon and his friends put them in."
MK Shlomo Molla said Ya'alon should be dismissed over his remarks. "Minister Ya'alon is trying to avoid a commission of inquiry, and instead of taking responsibility is trying to hold the IDF's soldiers accountable.
"The IDF does not outline a policy – it follows orders, and the political echelon must face the accusations and explain without throwing mud at the IDF. I call on the prime minister to fire Minister Ya'alon in order to save the IDF."
On Monday IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ordered a formal, external inquiry into the naval raid.
The probe, meant to derive operational conclusions from the deadly events which took place aboard the Marmara – the sail's lead vessel – will be conducted by a panel of experts headed by Maj-Gen (ret.) Giora Eiland.
The panel is expected to submit its findings by July.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report