Minister Benny Begin on Thursday dismissed the state comptroller's criticism of the government's handling of the 2010 flotilla raid, branding the censuring report as "wisdom of the hindsight."
In retrospect, he conceded, it's easy to point out mistakes made in dealing with the incident.
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The Knesset's State Control Committee convened Thursday to discuss State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report – a first step on the lengthy road towards putting the proffered conclusions into action.
Lindenstrauss claimed in his review of the government's decision-making process before and during the deadly flotilla incident that Israel's leaders, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, did not follow protocol and did not hold orderly discussions of the ideal strategy for dealing with the development.
Begin with national security adviser Yaakov Amidror on Thursday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
During Thursday's session, Minister Begin expressed surprise at Lindenstrauss' assertion that Netanyahu failed to convene the appropriate ministers to discuss strategy.
"The prime minister held 300 sessions on security and foreign affairs," he said. "He holds three meetings a week on average… during which intelligence and National Security Council officials have the opportunity to voice their opinions."
The Turkish flotilla, aiming to break the Israeli maritime blockade on Gaza, neared the Strip's shores on May 31, 2010. When the IDF's repeated calls to halt went unheeded by the Mavi Marmara and the five other vessels in the fleet, Navy commandos descended onto the ship from a helicopter.
Met with violent resistance by its passengers, the commandos killed nine men.
Begin confirmed that the leaders were aware beforehand that the troops could be confronted with violence if they raided the approaching ships. Recalling one meeting held prior to the raid, Begin quoted then-IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi as voicing concern that force might have to be used to take over the flotilla vessels.
"We took into account that they might have a gun or something," Begin said, referring to the ships' passengers. "The IDF chief said... 'It should be clear that some people could get beaten up… there might be someone there with a knife or a signal pistol.'"
'Leaders not immune to mistakes'
Begin claimed that while Lindenstrauss' report raised important questions for future incidents, even the most orderly government conduct does not make the decision-makers immune to mistakes.
Thursday's session (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I've learned from my father that wisdom in hindsight is still wisdom, but it should be qualified as such," he said. "After all, it's obvious that we made mistakes in planning the operation… I don't think that we should draw conclusions from the report about the government's conduct in general.
"If we had anticipated the resistance on the part of the passengers, we would have prepared differently. The operational orders would have been different," he added.
In his report, Lindenstrauss also slammed the government for mishandling the public diplomacy that touched upon the flotilla raid. Officials from the State Comptroller's Office claimed during Thursday's session that the failures listed in the report were pointed out years ago, but went unaddressed.
"The Defense Ministry's management of the hasbara issue was not done in an institutionalized or systematic manner," one official, Shlomo Kotik, said. "There is a growing gap between the resources invested in diplomacy and the need for them – especially considering the resources invested by the opponent."
The report stated that the public diplomacy bureau in the Prime Minister's Office did not distinguish between Israel's domestic messages and those directed to the international community. This, the report stated, was manifested in negative coverage overseas, largely due to the severe delay in response.
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