Friday, June 15, 2012

Netanyahu and the Failures of the Mavi Marmara Flotilla Incident

While the recent publication of the Israel Comptroller’s damning report of the government’s handling of the Mavi Marmara Flotilla incident most likely will not have any immediate repercussions concerning Turkey and Israeli relations, it certainly will be a stain on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s standing in the world community. Further, this will supply leverage to Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan to continue to press for an Israeli apology. While this is not in the forecast, this report is the greatest proof that Israel would be wise to reconsider the price they are paying by continuing to remain at odds with Turkey, and the benefits they could reap by mending ties. 

The report that came out two days ago sent out a strong message not only to Netanyahu, but also Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. As for Netanyahu, the State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, focused on numerous failings in the decision-making process, going as far to say that the “decision making process regarding the dealings with the Turkish flotilla led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and under his responsibility was found to include essential and significant flaws.” The report goes into detail of lack of communication between the army, and basically a case in severe mismanagement.  For the full details, one can look at the following article in Haaretz. However, it is clear that Lindenstrauss’s message is clear: the outcome could have been different.

According to the report, the then Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, made numerous references that taking over the ship could turn into violent confrontation. In terms of the sheer damage that such an operation would create, Ashkenazi stated that “completing the IDF's stated mission as it has been defined for it will lead to confrontation with foreign nationals onboard and will create a provocation which will serve to further fan the flames of criticism already targeting Israel.” Yet, the Prime Minister along with Defense Minister Barak chose that the violent outcome over diplomacy. 

Lindenstrauss also had strong words for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stating, “The Foreign Ministry is struggling to act properly in the realm of public relations due to the wide gap between what is required of it and the ministry’s limited abilities.” This should be no surprise, as Foreign Minister Lieberman has proved time again his lack of knowledge concerning basic diplomacy.    

Despite the stern words which targeted the highest echelon of Netanyahu’s government, the Prime Minister brushed off the criticism stating that Israeli citizens’ sense of security is proof of the success of his policies.  However, what about the life which could have been spared on the Mavi Marmara? What about the damage which it has caused Israel in terms of foreign-relations? 

With the recent joining of the large opposition party, Kadima, to Netanyahu’s government, making this the largest government in Israeli history, with Netanyahu holding 94 seats out of 120, no criticism from a State Comptroller will make a difference.  Therefore, it seems unlikely that even in light of such a critical report any change is on the horizon. What is clear is that this is one more reminder that the Mavi Marmara Flotilla will go down as one of the biggest public relations fiascos in Israeli history.   

Of course, the incident will continue to occupy news reports. The Turkish side is continuing to push on and in November four military officers, including former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will be tried in absentia in Turkish courts for the death of the nine Turkish citizens killed. And, the story goes on and on…more to come.....

Here are links to the report in Hebrew...


  1. It's not even clear that the boarding of the Mavi Marmara was illegal under international law, and yet the Turkish government still feels the need to put on a show trial. This reflects just as badly on Turkey as it does on Israel.

    1. The legality issue, either way, is not important. Clearly, Israel should have opted for a diplomatic solution. This did not happen. The mission was so poorly planned and mismanaged, ending with the death of 9 Turkish citizens. I agree on the other hand, that Turkey also completely mismanaged the incident, and the upcoming trial I will speak about when it happens. I would suggest going back and reading what I wrote immediate following the incident for a more detailed answer...thanks for your comment!!!