IDF Probe Into Gaza Flotilla Likely to Be More Critical Than Expected

Still unclear if Gen. (Res.) Giora Eiland plans to recommend disciplinary measures against commanders, though he will probably ask for more time to investigate.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The internal military probe into the Israel Defense Forces raid on the Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza headed by Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland is expected to request more time than it was originally allotted to reach its conclusions.

It appears that members of Eiland's staff are of the belief that the scope of the army's mishaps is more extensive than originally thought. The committee's findings are certainly expected to be more critical than the statements made by senior IDF officers immediately after the May 31 incident on the Mavi Marmara.

One of the ships of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that was intercepted by the IDF enters the port of Ashdod.Credit: Eli Hershkovitz

On June 9, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi assigned the panel with probing the affair and submitting its report by July 4 - this coming Sunday. Eiland and his aides are relying on the internal probes already conducted by the Israel Navy and its commando unit, yet they have also summoned witnesses - among them senior IDF officers - in order to extract oral statements following the probes' findings.

Judging from the numerous statements made by members of the probe panel and gleaning from testimony taken during the course of the inquiry, it appears that the final conclusions will touch on matters far beyond merely blaming the fiasco on a failure of intelligence or questioning the choice to take over the ship by having soldiers rappel from a helicopter. Prior to being named to head the probe, Eiland had criticized the IDF for the operation and the decision-making process which led to the raid.

In an appearance before a forum hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies, Eiland said that the means Israel had at its disposal to contend with the flotilla would have been more readily available if greater preparation had been made beforehand.

A central theme in Eiland's probe deals with the psychological aspects of the commandos' task. As far as is known, the IDF did not place enough emphasis on lessons learned from previous violent clashes, particularly those during the Gaza disengagement when soldiers encountered resistance from settlers on the roof of a synagogue in Kfar Darom.

At this stage, it remains unclear whether Eiland plans to recommend disciplinary measures against the relevant commanders in the case. When he probed the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006, Eiland refrained from assigning personal blame.

The demands of retired justice Jacob Turkel, who is heading the civilian committee investigating the raid, roused some concern from the prime minister and defense minister. Both men agreed to accept most of Turkel's demands, yet they denied his committee the right to question soldiers and officers, with the exception of IDF chief Ashkenazi and, perhaps, Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit.

Senior figures in the IDF are aware that the numerous probes and investigations - headed by the Turkel and Eiland committees as well as the expected probe to be conducted by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss - are likely to yield far-reaching developments in the case. It appears that at least one of the individuals involved in the investigation has begun preliminary consultations with an attorney.



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