Israel Didn't Properly Prepare for 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid, Ex-adviser Says

Former national security adviser Uzi Arad also says that despite ministers’ demand, the cabinet didn't discuss easing Gaza blockade before the flotilla incident.

Uzi Arad at the Herzliya Conference in June 2016.
David Bachar

Former National Security Advisor Uzi Arad revealed Tuesday that he boycotted a key meeting on plans to intercept a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza in 2010 because he was upset by the “substandard” way the preparations were being handled.

The Israel Defense Forces raid on the flotilla ultimately resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists and led to a six-year rift in the ties between Israel and Turkey. 

The meeting in question took place in a forum dubbed the “octet,” consisting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seven other ministers. But Arad said he skipped it, hiding out instead in the office next door because he was upset over Netanyahu’s refusal to convene the full diplomatic-security cabinet at any point during the preparations, even though this should have been done according to protocol.

“The meeting was completely off the cuff; the Foreign Ministry wasn’t even invited,” Arad told the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday. “When the meeting was called, I decided I would boycott it. I didn’t know then that the operation would end as it did, but you can see substandard work procedures, and in protest, I stayed away.”

Yossi Baidatz, then head of Military Intelligence’s research department, found him at one point and told him Netanyahu wanted him, Arad continued. “I told him I refuse to come.”

Arad said he didn’t think the State Comptroller’s Office, which later investigated the raid, ever heard this story. “I’m telling it now only to show that when you see something terrible, you see it. When it was necessary to speak aggressively to the prime minister, we did it.”

Arad said the National Security Council had proposed alternatives to the raid, including easing the blockade on Gaza, but “the prime minister didn’t allow us to present those options to the octet. He promised me that if and when it went to the diplomatic-security cabinet, that would be the right time to do so.”

Both the NSC and the strategic affairs minister had requested a meeting of the diplomatic-security cabinet, Arad continued, but it never happened. He added that the NSC had been working for months before the raid on “alternatives to the blockade regime,” but that certain ministers weren’t interested in discussing easing the blockade as long as soldier Gilad Shalit remained in captivity in Gaza.

Asked by committee chairwoman Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) who prevented the diplomatic-security cabinet from meeting, he said, “Perhaps the Defense Ministry, which doesn’t like the diplomatic-security cabinet to get involved in the ministry’s affairs, and the defense minister specifically,” referring to Ehud Barak.

Elharrar then asked if Netanyahu was also involved in preventing the meeting, and Arad replied, “The fact is that serious ministers repeatedly asked to convene the diplomatic-security cabinet ... and it didn’t help.”

Later, Arad discussed “another incident that the public knows about only partially,” which occurred two months after the raid. He declared that he “couldn’t go into details,” but the details he did give made it clear he was talking about an incident in which Netanyahu ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The order was never carried out due to opposition from IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, and Dagan, in particular, asserted that the order was illegal, because only the diplomatic-security cabinet could make such a decision.

“Meir wasn’t the most law-abiding person, but he, too, when he saw something illegal, he recognized it,” Arad said.