Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu arriving to testify to the Turkel panel on the Gaza aid flotilla, in Jerusalem August 9, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu evaded the questions put forth by members of the panel probing Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla on at least six different occasions on Monday, saying he would only address those issues behind closed doors.

The prime minister's public testimony, which lasted only an hour and a half, was to be followed by a closed session with the members of the investigative committee headed by former justice Jacob Turkel.

The first occasion came during the PM' opening statement of the public portion of his testimony, as the premier told the committee he would not discuss who were the officials who conducted talks with the Turkish government prior to the flotilla.

Only minutes later, as the PM was asked by former justice Turkel if alternatives were considered to military action, Netanyahu said that that issue "concerned a separate discussion which was both related and unrelated to the operation, on which I shall update after the break."

The third such occasion came again in response to a question regarding the other portions considered by the cabinet, this time by panel member Amos Horev, to which Netanyahu said that he asked "to discuss the issue behind closed doors."

The PM again evaded the issue when asked about his trip to North America, which took place a few days prior to the flotilla's arrival. "I had a very important meeting with the U.S. president and I would like to elaborate on that later on [during the testimony to be held behind closed doors]."

Panel member Reuven Merhav pressed the issue further, asking the PM if "an offer was presented to fill the vacuum [in Netanyahu's stead]," but then adding that he estimated that the premier would "discuss that issue in the closed session."

However, when Merhav asked regarding the Egyptian willingness to assist with halting the flotilla, the PM again said that he would discuss the matter "behind closed doors."

Another incident occurred when panel member Miguel Deutsch asked in what way Israel dealt with claims that it broke international law, Netanyahu said he would "specify in the closed session."