Army gets blamed for decision to board ship from the air
The Israeli prime minister and his government sought to blame the army yesterday for the bungled raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. Senior ministers claimed that the manner in which the Mavi Mamara was intercepted amounted to a colossal failure of leadership by army chiefs.
While defending the conduct of the commandos in the operation, they questioned why there was not better intelligence about the violent intentions of some of the activists and criticised the absence of an undercover agent onboard.
Others questioned the method used to halt the ship, with suggestions that its propellers could have been sabotaged as has happened in the past. Within the cabinet, anger was directed at Ehud Barak, the defence minister; and to a lesser extent at Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, for deciding to launch the commando raid by helicopter. But sources suggested that Mr Barak would try to pin the responsibility on the army.
General Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, is said to have drawn up the plans for the raid and could be an expedient sacrifice as he is due to retire in nine months. Such a strategy has its risks, however, as he is popular in Israel. With no signs of a lull in international anger over the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists, there were calls in Israel for at least one senior official to resign.
There was also foreign criticism of the use of Israeli special forces, who were lowered on to the ship by helicopter and confronted by activists wielding iron bars. Robin Horsfall, a former British SAS officer, said the Israelis had made an error by not using coastguard vessels to intercept the ship.
Mr Horsfall said: "They were taking on a ship at sea that did not pose a threat to human life." (©Daily Telegraph, London)