Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted rough waters ahead for Israel on Monday. "Be prepared for difficult days," he told a Likud faction meeting, in which he also announced the establishment of an inquiry committee to probe the IDF flotilla raid.
"Dark forces from the Middle Ages are raging against us. I have received calls from concerned officials in the Balkans and Eastern Europe who are very worried about these developments."
Earlier, at the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu told ministers to expect "surprises", even from Israel's allies. However he said the committee would work in favor of Israel, and not against it.
"This committee strengthens our ability to fight in the international political arena. If we had done nothing, I assume we would have had worse problems in the world. There is a certain price we are paying, but under the present circumstances it is our best move," he said.
"The flotilla to Gaza was not a one-time thing. We find ourselves in the midst of a difficult and continuous battle against the State of Israel. The flood of hate is being led by Israel's enemies all over the world," Netanyahu added.
"They are trying to pinch us with the metal pinchers of missiles and terror, and revoke Israel's right to defend itself as well as the rights of IDF soldiers to protect their own lives."
But the inquiry committee, led by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel and including observers from Ireland and Canada, does not appear to be in any particular hurry. Its members have not yet met with Netanyahu and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser says no time schedule has been set yet.
Ministers reluctantly in favor
The ministers, all of whom voted in favor of establishing the committee, each had different explanations for their vote.
Monday's cabinet meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, who was revealed by Ynet to have said that "someone did not act according to standard operating procedure" during the raid, remarked that there had been failures on the level of state officials.
"The committee is not a substitute for our own internal investigation, on the state and military level, so that we can respond better to other flotillas and different events we will have to handle," he said.
Ya'alon added that the probe's aim would not be to "chop off heads" but rather to learn lessons for the future. "All in all the decision to stop the flotilla and not allow it to reach Gaza was correct, it was self-defense on the national level. The decision to open fire on deck was also apparently correct, with courage, restraint, valor, and a lot of professionalism," he said.
Minister Dan Meridor also said there was no escaping an inquiry committee but, in contrast to Netanyahu and Ya'alon, was in favor of allowing low-level IDF officers to testify before it. "It brings in another angle," he said.
But Defense Minister Ehud Barak was opposed. "The defense establishment objects to any process that harms the confidentiality of the military probe, which is the correct way of ascertaining events," he said.
"A soldier must decide in a split second whether to fire or not. He must activate the laws of reason and ethics. He should not, at that split second, be considering the conversation he will have to have later on with his lawyer."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was "no escaping" the formation of the committee. "Some of the international community believes Israel cannot investigate itself," he said.
"It is in our interest to investigate all of the facts, and it is also in our interest for the facts to be checked through the glasses of the international community," Lieberman said. "The more time goes by the picture gets clearer – our hands are clean."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report