Netanyahu says Turkey ignored warnings 9Aug10 August 10, 2010

Palestine Note -  9 August 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a commission of inquiry into Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza aid flotilla that Turkey had ignored warnings from Israel to restrain the convoy.

Netanyahu was the first person to testify before an Israeli government panel that is investigating the May 31 raid in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists onboard the largest of the convoy’s ships, the Mavi Marmara.

Reuters quoted from Netanyahu’s testimony:

“Beginning on May 14, my office held contacts with the highest levels of the Turkish government,” Netanyahu said.

“These contacts … were intended to prevent a confrontation with the Marmara flotilla, and they continued until the eve of the flotilla’s arrival off Gaza’s shores,” he said.

“Despite our continuous diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara to violate the naval blockade… It appears that (Turkey) did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel something that clashed with its interests…”

It was Netanyahu’s most explicit public account of behind-the-scenes diplomacy that in the end failed to avert the clash.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Netanyahu placed responsibility for raid on the shoulders of the military and on his defense minister, Ehud Barak:

“The IDF had always decided on the ways in which to enforce the blockade [on Gaza] and has done its job well,” the prime minister said, saying that this was the “division of labor.”

When asked by the commission how the decision on military action was received, Netanyahu said that that all of those involved “felt that the raid was a last resort, and the instructions were to conduct it with as little friction as possible.”

“The IDF had looked into several options, as per my instructions, but also according to the instructions of the defense minister and the chief of staff,” Netanyahu said.

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