Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before the Turkel Gaza flotilla probe committee, August 9, 2010. Photo by Mark Israel
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The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected the government's excuses for failing to include a woman on the committee investigating May's raid on a Turkish flotilla to Gaza. In addition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, responsibility for ignoring the obligation to uphold the law on women's equality rests with committee chairman Jacob Turkel, himself a former Supreme Court justice.

The negligence and arrogance that characterize this government's work, and which led to its military and diplomatic failures in handling the flotilla, are also reflected in subsequent developments. They reveal a basic flaw in the way the government operates and in the conduct of its senior ministers, including Netanyahu, Neeman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (and it is puzzling that the latter has not been summoned to testify before the committee on the raid's diplomatic aspects ).

The key government officials who formulated Israel's position toward both the local and the international investigations failed, just as they failed in handling the flotilla itself. They established the Turkel Committee for a limited purpose: examining questions related to international law (imposition of the naval blockade, searching the ships, the use of force ). But the committee took the liberty of looking into other issues as well, which are more important from a public standpoint. The government decided that only Netanyahu, Barak and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff would testify, but now it turns out that other generals will also be summoned.

It is good that the committee is doing so, but this in itself reveals the government's limited control over planning and execution. The committee grew from three to five members even before the subsequent addition of a woman (if the government accedes to the High Court's urging ). The two foreign observers are refusing to behave as puppets, and contrary to the government's decision, they will have access to classified material.

The Turkel Committee was meant to repel outside pressure to establish a UN committee. Israel first opposed the UN committee, and then reversed itself and agreed, arguing that it had nothing to hide. But it agreed only on the understanding that IDF soldiers would not be questioned - or in other words, it does have things to hide. Now, the UN secretary general has repudiated this understanding, and Israel is in trouble: It must either give in or quit the committee.

A government that behaves this way cannot be fixed. Israel's helm is not in good hands.