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Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Not in the command center Photo: Yaron Brener
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Not in the command center Photo: Yaron Brener
 
 

Eiland to investigate Ashkenazi over flotilla

Commission examining chain of flaws leading up to flotilla raid is slated to look into conduct of chief of staff himself, other senior officers during IDF takeover of Marmara. Military source to Ynet: 'Chief of staff managed entire system, and this is what he was occupied with'

Hanan Greenberg
Published: 06.13.10, 11:50 / Israel News

As the storms surrounding the Gaza flotilla raid dies down and the investigation of the events gets underway, the Eiland Commission, appointed by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, is slated to investigate the conduct of the chief of staff himself and other figures in the IDF General Staff prior to the Navy takeover of the ship and the operation at sea.

 

The commission started its work a few days ago, and is expected to issue a final report that details a variety of related areas. Beyond its focus on the events that took place on the deck of the Marmara, a significant portion of the document with address the preparations made by the senior-most command for the flotilla's arrival.

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According to a report in Haaretz, the chief of staff was not in the underground command center (the "Bor") in the Kirya military base during the takeover of the Marmara, and arrived on the site only a short time later.

 

While this was going on, Israel Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Marom was in command of the operation. He was on a small sea craft in the field during this time. Operations Directorate Chief Tal Russo was in a Navy command post in the Kirya base during the time of the operation. Ashkenazi followed the event's developments and even gave authorization for various actions, including the takeover of the Turkish ship.

 

The flotilla operation was not considered a General Staff operation, but a more limited undertaking. However, the chief of staff's absence from the Bor during the operation's most critical moments could perhaps indicate a state of mind within the IDF that the likelihood of a more problematic scenario playing out was small. This state of mind proved in hindsight to be problematic, even in various ranks outside the military, and was widely criticized.

 

This coincides with the estimates made by the political echelons, and even passed on to the military, that the ship was carrying innocent civilians and diplomats, and that all measure must be taken to avoid inflicting upon them harm.

 

'Chief of staff does not issue tactical orders'

A senior military source said to Ynet that the fact that the chief of staff was not in the Bor during the event is perfectly acceptable in light of the fact that the two commanders overseeing the operation were in constant contact with him, with Ashkenazi even issuing them orders in real time.

 

"The chief of staff's roll is not to give tactical orders, but to manage the entire system, and this is what he was occupied with," said the source.

 

Similar statements were made by the IDF Spokesperson Unit, which reported, "During the event, the head of the chief of staff's office was present in the Navy command post, as is customary in situations of this kind. He updated the chief of staff and his deputy on a regular basis. Immediately when the violent stage started, the chief of staff also arrived at the command post and took command of the event, including the stage of casualty evacuation. The chief of staff was in contact at all times with Adm. Marom."

 

Many other details of supposed faulty conduct leading up to and during the flotilla raid have been published recently. For instance, it was published that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon were not even aware of the events while they were taking place.

 

The Prime Minister's Office denied the report, and claimed, "Vice Prime Minister Ya'alon was updated regularly by the IDF Secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office prior to, during, and after the takeover of the ship."

 

It should be noted that Ya'alon himself did not deny not being updated during the flotilla takeover. However, as was first published in Ynet, he leveled criticism at the manner in which the raid was undertaken, and said during a closed conference, "Instead of handing out medals, apparently someone was not okay. Apparently, someone did not act in accordance with standing operating procedure."

 

Last week, another detail was revealed regarding supposed faulty conduct leading up to the raid. The defense minister's office refused to allow the IDF to participate in preparatory discussions held by the National Security Council, which has reignited tensions between the National Security Advisor Uzi Arad and the defense establishment.

 

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