Israel watchdog slams Netanyahu over flotilla raid
Updated 1:50pm: Israel's state watchdog on Wednesday sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of a 2010 military raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which left nine Turks dead.
"In the process of decision making, which was led by the prime minister and under his responsibility, over the handling of the (flotilla), there were significant shortcomings," said a report published on Wednesday by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla aimed at breaking the Gaza blockade, on 31 May 2010, in a pre-dawn raid, killing nine Turkish activists.
The raid triggered a crisis between Israel and Turkey, once regional allies, and resulted in a dramatic downgrade in diplomatic relations and expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey. Military ties were also damaged.
In the 153-page report, the comptroller slammed the decision-making process, saying Netanyahu had not held a formal discussion with top ministers about the flotilla.
The prime minister only had held separate talks on the issue with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"The prime minister did not order integrative staff work regarding the necessary policy to deal with the flotilla, instead there were personal, separate meetings, between the prime minister and the defense minister, and between the prime minister and the foreign minister, which were not documented or summarized, and there was no discussion between the prime minister and any group of ministers," the report said.
"The only discussion that took place on the issue was in the Forum of Seven just before the flotilla arrived, an 'ad-hoc' discussion without any preparation," it said, referring to Netanyahu's inner forum of senior ministers, which now counts nine members.
"The process of decision-making was done without orderly, agreed-upon, coordinated and documented staff work, despite the recognition of the senior political echelon and IDF chiefs, intelligence bodies and the National Security Council on the different nature of the Turkish flotilla compared to previous flotillas," it said.
A Turkish court will on November 6 open criminal proceedings against four top Israeli military officials who were serving at the time of the raid and whom Ankara holds responsible for the violence.
Among them are former chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.
The trial is expected to be held in the absence of the accused, Israel having ruled out any prosecution of those who took part in the attack.
Last year, an Israeli probe ruled that the raid did not violate international law, in a finding which Turkey said lacked credibility.
A UN report in September of last year found that Israel used "excessive" force in the raid but also said that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was legal, drawing harsh criticism of pro-Israel bias.
Israel's five-year blockade of Gaza has all but destroyed the local economy, plunging the majority of 1.5 million trapped Palestinians into poverty.
Israel destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure during its was on the Strip in 2008-2009, and has withheld crucial building material, hindering reconstruction.