IDF fears political echelons may pass buck on flotilla
Eiland Report finds IDF not negligent in flotilla raid, but made some errors. Senior military official hints that findings from internal investigation may act as ammunition against IDF in Turkel Commission. Barak, Ashkenazi expected to face off once again
After a specially appointed, independent internal investigation committee found no official in the IDF to be negligent in the Israel Navy raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla and nearly no mistakes were made, the IDF has now turned its attention to the Turkel Commission, which will likely reveal the power struggle between the political and military echelons and the tensions between the defense minister's office and the chief of staff.
Hints of these tensions could already be detected Monday during a report of a discussion held with Defense Minister Ehud Barak a few weeks before the flotilla in which he asked that the military prepare for an operational and intelligence incident.
Barak's camp insists that there is no disagreement between the defense minister and the military. On the contrary, his associates claim that he gives the military's commanders his full support, just as he did a few hours after the flotilla raid during a joint press briefing with Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and the Navy commander.
However, Eisland revealed a letter Ashkenazi sent to Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 13 on the importance of inter-ministerial cooperation in dealing with the flotilla and to avoid the use of force. Eiland believes that the chief of staff understood very well that he was on the brink of an event that is not just military, and therefore, undertook the necessary steps in order to recruit the political echelons to the campaign.
The IDF claims that the chief of staff deals with issues that stray into political territory on many occasions and, therefore, chose to update Barak in this manner. The IDF is making an effort to ignore reports that could be interpreted as attempts to place responsibility on the military. However, behind closed doors, such concerns are definitely being voiced.
Though no one is openly admitting it, the issue could resurface existing tensions between Minister Barak and Chief of Staff Ashkenazi and their offices.
Where was the hitch?
The military's main concern, though few are willing to discuss it, is that other independent bodies that took part in the flotilla will reject any form of self-review, instead passing the buck to the military.
Even before the ink has dried on the Eiland Report and before Ashkenazi has appeared before the Turkel Commission, the IDF is trying to put the flotilla investigation into perspective by already claiming ahead of time that there was no failure, and therefore, any expectation for resignations – if were any – is exaggerated and inappropriate.
A senior military official said, "The IDF is the only body involved in the event that investigated itself and even bravely published its findings."
The official, thus, hinted that military's self-investigation may become a stumbling block in the hand of other bodies that could use the criticism detailed in the report against the military for its operation on the high sea.