The Flotilla Failure

A commission of inquiry into Israel's botched raid will tell us nothing we don't know. Better that our leaders stand up and admit they were wrong, so that we can all move forward.

An IDF oldier stands guard aboard a naval vessel as Gaza-bound ships are intercepted
An IDF soldier stands guard aboard a naval vessel as Gaza-bound ships are intercepted, May 31, 2010

The Mossad chief said this week that Iran's nuclear program is in serious trouble. I don't believe him. I don't believe that an intelligence organization that did not know how many axes and knives were on the Mavi Marmara knows how many centrifuges are hidden in Iran's secret bunkers. I don't believe that an intelligence organization that failed to understand the strategic significance of the Gaza flotilla comprehends the strategic significance of each of Iran's options.

I don't believe that an intelligence organization that did not solve the problem of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit can solve the problem of Iran's nuclear program. I respect Meir Dagan. I know what we all owe to the Mossad, which Dagan heads. But after the flotilla failure, I no longer believe in the ability of intelligence organizations and special forces to counter the challenges facing the State of Israel.

The chief of staff has said during the past three years that he can't say anything to the public because he is busy building up the Israel Defense Forces. I don't believe him. I respect Gabi Ashkenazi. I think he has done an excellent job in rebuilding the army and renewing its capabilities. But I know that in the matter of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, Ashkenazi failed. I know that Ashkenazi sent an elite unit into a foreseeable trap, did not read the map's contours, did not prepare the forces and did not make reasonable decisions.

I also know that Ashkenazi does not have enough courage to face the public, admit the failure and claim responsibility. After the flotilla failure, I wonder whether the chief of staff is indeed the responsible adult about whom so much has been said. I wonder which other failures he is hiding behind his silence.

The defense minister has said over and over that his hands are steady and his trigger finger secure. I don't believe him. I respect Ehud Barak's excellent understanding of reality. I respect his courage and cool. But his contribution to national security will not be remembered as flawless.

In the case of the flotilla, Barak is responsible for the failure. Barak did not understand that Israel must not endanger the strategic alliance with Turkey and must not be seen as a terrorist state, operating as a pirate in international waters. Barak did not understand that undermining Israel's legitimacy is a fatal blow to Israeli security. After the flotilla failure, I wonder if Barak is indeed the brilliant strategist he is meant to be. I have lost my faith in his judgment.

The prime minister said behind closed doors that he will rescue Israel from the Iranian threat. I don't believe him. I respect Benjamin Netanyahu's understanding of history and his love for his country and people. But I see that Netanyahu is actually deepening the Iranian threat. Netanyahu is undermining Israel's international standing - he is isolating it and making it hated. He is not calming any of the fronts, only firing them up.

Instead of rallying the Palestinians, Syrians and Turks against Iran, Netanyahu is pushing them toward Iran. Instead of rallying the Europeans and Americans in Israel's favor, he is inciting them against Israel. The process reached a frenzied peak with the flotilla. Netanyahu insisted on a forceful action in a nonessential arena, and thus proved that his view of reality is flawed. Since the prime minister does not understand the essence of the campaign against Iran, he is losing it. After the flotilla failure, I doubt his ability to deal with our existential challenge.

Should Netanyahu, Barak, Ashkenazi and Dagan go home? Not necessarily. Israel is currently climbing a mountain. It's hard to change horses on your way up. But a commission of inquiry will not solve a thing. Everything has already been said.

Therefore, it is our leaders' duty to shorten the process: to admit their failure, learn their lessons and fix things. Create a government of national unity immediately. Set up a high-quality national task force immediately. Undertake a political initiative immediately. And we should immediately implement the recommendations of the Winograd Committee. The Second Lebanon War was a warning. Operation Cast Lead was another. Now the alarm has been sounded. Is Jerusalem listening?