"The government failed the test of results," the editor at large for Israel's oldest leading newspaper writes in a blistering analysis calling for a full scale investigation of the deadly raid of a Gaza flotilla: an "act of protest [which resulted in] dead demonstrators and a grave international crisis."
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must return immediately from North America and convene a national committee of inquiry into Israel's interception of a Gaza aid convoy on Monday, during which at least nine activists were killed," Aluf Benn writes for Haaretz.
There is no other fitting or proper way to clarify the circumstances of the incident, which began as an act of protest and ended with dead demonstrators and a grave international crisis.
The government failed the test of results; blaming the organizers of the flotilla for causing the deaths by ignoring Israel's orders to turn back is inadequate. Decisions taken by the responsible authorities must be probed.
Nor can Monday's bloodshed be dismissed with claims that the demonstrators attacked IDF commandos with guns and other weapons. This type of excuse shifts responsibility from the political and military decision-makers to the soldiers, who acted in the heat of combat and for fear of their lives. It may be convenient to Netanyahu and his partners in government to present the battle as a local incident that escalated Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but they cannot escape responsibility for the crisis.
Benn, editor at large of the newspaper that has a small circulation in Israel but is considered very influential and is widely read in English on the Internet, continues,
A committee of inquiry would have to answer several salient questions:
Tactics. What prompted the decision to stop the flotilla by force - what course of action was presented to the politicians who made the decision and what analysis was made of the consequences of using live fire in any confrontation?
Were there any dissenting views, was there anyone how pointed to the inevitable damage to Israel from any operational failure? What steps were taken to forestall an escalation?
Alternatives. Was any effort made to stop the flotilla through diplomacy, or through negotiation and compromise with its organizers? Or did the government rush headlong into a confrontation, without any thought for the alternatives? Was there anyone who advocated letting the boats through to Gaza, rather than making them a test of Israel's sovereignty and might?
Turkey. What has the government done in the past year to improve ties with a strategically crucial neighbor? How has the prime minister worked to redress the damage to relations with Ankara?
The siege of Gaza. What is the purpose of the siege? Is it just an automatic extension of the previous government's policy, or does it have some practical aim? How much has the usefulness of the policy been discussed during the current government's year in office?
In 2009, Benn criticized President Obama in a New York Times editorial.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in July of 2009:
Shortly after I posted a link to Aluf Benn's New York Times op-ed on President Obama, I spoke to two senior administration officials who seemed to feel fairly strongly that Benn doesn't understand what the President is trying to do. In his piece, Benn argued that Obama has spoken to most everyone in the world except to the Israelis -- the Cairo speech to the Muslim world being the most obvious example of Obama's desire to re-set relationships -- and that until he allays Israeli fears, and explains his vision for the Middle East and for Israel's security, Israelis will mistrust him, to generally deleterious effect.
These two senior officials -- sorry, those were the ground rules -- made the plausible argument that the Cairo speech was, in fact, directed at Israelis as much as it was directed at Arabs. "The President went before a Cairo audience in a speech co-sponsored by Al-Azhar with Muslim Brotherhood members in the audience and spoke of America's strong, unshakable support for Israel," one of the officials said. "He could have gone to a million different venues to say this, but he went to Cairo, and it wasn't exactly an applause line. Isn't it more important to say this to the Muslim world than it is to say it to an audience of Israelis or American Jews?"
These two officials pointed out something that I forgot about the speech, which is that it contained strong condemnations of the cynical Arab ploy to use the Palestinian issue as a diversion (in other words, to keep the focus of unhappy Arabs on Israel and not on the weaknesses of their own anti-democratic, corrupt governments), and of course it contained an unequivocal denunciation of terrorism committed in the name of resistance.