PM Netanyahu addresses cabinet meeting
PM Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office on Sunday May 23, 2010. Photo by AP
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The team of experts headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland submitted its report yesterday on its investigation into the military operation against the Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31. The limited and censored version that Eiland presented to the public suggests that the two expectations created when Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi announced his appointment have come true.

As expected, Eiland carried out the task thoroughly and in depth, exposing flaws and recommending ways to correct them. Also as expected, Eiland didn't put anyone's head in a noose. Eiland's report does not whitewash the cracks in intelligence gathering and operational planning, but it leaves up in the air, or in this case, out at sea, the question of command responsibility for what Eiland himself has described as "substantive errors of the senior ranks."

The mistakes pointed out by Eiland revolve around the way the navy operated, especially the commander of the navy and its intelligence unit, the intelligence department and the General Staff. As such, this is an important report but too narrow, because the government and especially the prime minister and defense minister were not investigated. (The chief of staff had warned them of the dangers of a military operation and asked them to opt for alternatives .) Also not investigated were the foreign minister, the Ministerial Committee for Defense, the National Security Council and the Mossad, which failed to sneak an agent onto the Mavi Marmara.

Ashkenazi, who appointed Eiland, is not to blame for this investigative failure, nor is Eiland, whose hands were tied because the army is unable to investigate its superiors or other bodies in the defense establishment. This is the duty of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their colleagues in the cabinet.

The prime minister and his ministers thought they were smart and sought to make do with two investigations that are not authorized to touch them. The Eiland team was limited to the military alone. The Turkel Committee is dealing only with the aspects of the flotilla affair concerning international law. One investigation looks at the army and the other at the world; no investigation is looking into the Netanyahu-Barak government.

This is cowardly behavior toward the naval commandos and the other troops who took risks. The government must now turn onto itself the spotlight that Eiland directed at the Israel Defense Forces.

If Netanyahu and Barak avoid doing this, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee must set up a panel to investigate.