The ministers in the "Forum of Seven" are working night and day to prevent a skilled, credible investigation that would seriously examine a question of public importance: the quality of defense and political preparations before the Turkish flotilla to Gaza and during the takeover of its ships.
Sufficient preparation concerns the performance and responsibility of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, of the foreign and information ministers, of the Forum and the security cabinet, as well as the chairman of the National Security Council - Uzi Arad - charged by law with "overseeing the cabinet's administration" on matters of foreign and defense policy. This is in addition to the chief of staff's responsibility for the military's performance in preparing for and conducting the operation.
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi appointed an internal investigative team for the flotilla affair, headed by retired general Giora Eiland, the former head of the IDF's Planning Branch and head of the National Security Council. The IDF's team of experts is designed to exude credibility by detaching its members from current military service. However, one member, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, is an officer in active service who until recently headed the Operations Branch of the General Staff. Kochavi is waiting for a promotion to a senior position and the rank of major general. This constitutes a conflict of interests between his role as a member of the investigative team and his own personal and professional interests. This should be enough to disqualify him from a team of experts about to investigate the chief of staff.
Politicians are evading a real investigation that would also examine its own performance. The delay in deciding the substance and composition of the entity to handle the investigation is related to hopes the investigation will be acceptable to the U.S. administration. This, however, is a feeble and unacceptable excuse. The investigation is designed first and foremost to examine any hitches during the decision-making process and in the military preparations before the flotilla, and reach conclusions regarding future procedures - and not to serve as a propaganda machine to mollify the U.S.
The proposed "investigations," chiefly the international experts' seminar on maritime law, are appropriate for an academic conference and appear empty of real content. The Forum of Seven is mostly busy preventing the possibility that Netanyahu and Barak be held responsible - responsibility that could force a state commission of inquiry, the most appropriate body to investigate the operation.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch would appoint her colleagues, which would grant the commission credibility. Such a commission would carry greater public and international weight than a government committee appointed and authorized by the cabinet. A state commission of inquiry enjoys investigative powers determined by law, which also requires it be headed by a senior judge.
The professional character of a state commission of inquiry, the depth of its investigation and its objectivity, would ensure a thorough and credible examination of troublesome questions regarding the decisions prior to boarding the Turkish flotilla last week. The government's responsibility to the public requires that it appoint a state commission of inquiry. Any further delay or the choice of an investigation that is fabricated, not serious or substantial, will do even greater damage than that already caused by the affair.
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