Israeli defense officials were relatively unfazed by a trial that kicked off in Turkey
Tuesday against four former senior IDF
officers including former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi and former Navy commander Eliezer Marom for their part in the killing of nine people during a raid on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
The Prosecution demands nine consecutive life sentences for the officers in, but it appears unlikely that any sentence could be carried out.
The four are being tried in absentia in a trial that is set to be broadcast on Turkish TV and include the testimonies of 490 witnesses, including passengers who were onboard the Gaza-bound ship.
head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch and Mohammed Zidan, head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are among the witnesses.
Former Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit said this particular case is unusual but one that should not trouble the four Israeli defendants too much. "There's no great surprise here, they said this is going to happen," he told Ynet.
"It's more politics than law. It's a show, a fixed game with pre-decided outcomes," he explained. "What is special is that Turkey, which is considered to have a serious judicial system, has bent the law and Turkish criminal procedure with these charges and this type of trial."
Currently a senior analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, Mandelblit says that the trial poses "an innovation in modern warfare: using the court for political ends. That's what the Goldstone Commission tried to do – to turn the IDF's operational achievement into a defeat."
"The trial in Turkey is a combination of cynical politics and legal tools. I'm all for legitimate international tribunals like the International Court of Justice but here we have cameras inside the courtroom, hundreds of witnesses as if it's the Eichmann trial
and one goal: Defaming the State of Israel."
Mandelblit claims that one of the proofs that the trial is a political show trial is that two of the defendants – the Military Intelligence commander and the Air Force squadron commander, did not play a central role in the raid. "It looks forced," he remarked.
He noted that the IDF raid had already been investigated by international and Israeli commissions. "The Palmer Report which was adopted by the UN secretary-general established that the Gaza naval blockade is legal and that Israel did not commit war crimes," the former military advocate general said.
Asked about any concerns the four Israelis may have about traveling overseas, Mandelblit said, "Naturally they have no reason to travel to Turkey because they won't be able to return and they should definitely stay away from the US.
"The question is about Europe, but they are aware of the importance of the Palmer Report. European nations are reasonable and won't allow Turkey to use their judicial system for political ends."
"These are not fugitive child killers. There is no legal basis for arrest. This trial is meant to create deterrence, to stop the Gaza 'blockade', to delegitimize Israel. No western European nation, Britain included, will allow its court to be exploited and no European judge is Erdogan's clown."