Monday, August 9, 2010

Netanyahu in testimony before Tirkel Committee: Turkish gov't ignored warnings to prevent confrontation; slams Hamas and Iran

"I trust the IDF's fighters and the entire State of Israel is proud of them," the PM said Monday morning during his testimony before the investigative committee, which is headed by former justice Jacob Turkel.

In his testimony, the prime minister said the ministers did not hold an in-depth discussion on the commando operation itself, but focused on the media-related aspects of the affair. According to him, the ministers supported upholding the blockade despite the possible repercussions.

"The operation was a last resort. I, the defense minister, and the army chief called for minimal friction – yet we prepared because we knew there's an intention to undermine Israel's image," he said. "I sought a brainstorming session of the forum of seven top government ministers on how to prevent this. We did not discuss the operation, with the exception of the media effect."

"I left instructions and asked the defense minister to activate me and the top ministers if necessary. I wanted there to be one address here in Israel and he (Barak) was that address."

Netanyahu said that in late April and early May Israel began receiving information on the IHH's involvement in the planned voyage. "The intent was to cause provocation and international pressure on Israel," the PM said.

"I am the first to appear in this distinguished committee, Many will follow me, and I believe we will clarify all the details and get to the root of the truth."

In his testimony, Netanyahu said "hostile elements used the preposterous argument of a humanitarian crisis to try and break the naval blockade."

The prime minister further noted, "This was and is Hamas' main reason in trying to promote the various flotillas." He also mentioned that the flotilla's spokeswoman claimed that the journey's goal was to break the siege and not provide aid.

HHamas has turned Gaza into a "terror enclave" with "Iran's backing," Israel began to ease the blockade before the incident.

Addressing Israel's preparations for the flotilla, the PM said, "I convened the forum of seven ministers and asked to be updated on the final diplomatic and public relations efforts and to hear more ideas in order to minimize the diplomatic price of a confrontation, which even then seemed inevitable.

"At the conclusion of the meeting I instructed that the diplomatic and PR-related tasks be divided up, because I was about to depart for an important meeting with the president of the United States. I asked (the ministers) to make every effort to minimize friction (with the Gaza-bound ship) and avoid (bodily harm to the passengers). I know this was also the instruction given by the defense minister and chief of staff," Netanyahu said.