Israeli Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released a report earlier today slamming Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak for their shoddy preparation, decision-making, and faulty assumptions in the lead up to the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara two years ago. Lindenstrauss detailed the way in which Netanyahu ignored warnings to convene the cabinet and hold a group discussion about how to prepare for the flotilla, did not consult with the National Security Council (a body first created by Netanyahu when he served as prime minister in the 1990s and with which the PM is required by law to consult), and along with Barak ignored warnings from military officials that boarding the boat would be a violent and potentially fatal enterprise. The picture painted here is one of two men making decisions in isolation without involving any other people with expertise and experience, rejecting or downplaying warnings that contradict their previously formed opinions, and forming plans without all the necessary information because they either couldn’t be bothered to obtain it or willfully ignored it. Unsurprisingly given what the report says about how he processes information contradicting what he already believes, Netanyahu’s response was to essentially ignore it by saying that Israeli security under his watch proves that there are no problems.
Amir Mizroch has a devastating critique of Netanyahu and Barak in which he points out that this behavior is not surprising given the two men’s backgrounds as elite commandos, which leads them to view everything as a military problem to be neutralized rather than looking at the wide range of security and diplomatic implications. This created a terrible problem that is ongoing with Turkey, and it does not inspire confidence on Netanyahu and Barak’s threat assessment regarding Iran, their willingness to legitimately exhaust all other options before striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, or their preparedness and sense of reality for what the aftermath of an attack on Iran will bring. Netanyahu has faced an avalanche of criticism from former defense and intelligence officials, and he or his spokesmen have brushed it all aside by denigrating their motives, their current level of knowledge, their lack of understanding of just how existential the Iranian threat is, and stressing that ultimately only he is responsible for the fate of Israel and the Jewish people. It has been widely reported for months, if not years at this point, that he and Barak are keeping their own counsel and not involving the rest of the security cabinet when it comes to national security decision-making. In short, nearly every mistake that the pair made in the run-up to the flotilla as outlined in Lindenstrauss’s report is being made a second time in the run-up to a decision on Iran. After reading this, does anyone still trust that Netanyahu and Barak have looked at all the angles, considered every possibility, and are listening to the opinions given and information presented by the IDF and the Mossad? Jeffrey Goldberg has just posted a write up of an interview he did with former Mossad chief (and strident Netanyahu critic) Meir Dagan in which the following paragraph appears:
But what angers him most is what he sees as a total lack of understanding on the part of the men who lead the Israeli government about what may come the day after an Israeli strike. Some senior Israeli officials have argued to me that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities might actually trigger the eventual downfall of the regime. Dagan predicts the opposite: “Judging by the war Iran fought against Iraq, even people who supported the Shah, even the Communists, joined hands with (Ayatollah) Khomeini to fight Saddam,” he said, adding, “In case of an attack, political pressure on the regime will disappear. If Israel will attack, there is no doubt in my mind that this will also provide them with the justification to go ahead and move quickly to nuclear weapons.” He also predicted that the sanctions program engineered principally by President Obama may collapse as a result of an Israeli strike, which would make it easier for Iran to obtain the material necessary for it to cross the nuclear threshold.
That Netanyahu has brushed off Lindenstrauss entirely is disturbing, since it suggests that he has learned nothing from his previous mistakes and is set in the way he makes decisions. Netanyahu claimed to the comptroller that nobody ever mentioned to him the possibility that taking the Mavi Marmara would end in fighting, but the report details that at least three ministers raised objections and questions along these line and were simply ignored. How many more scathing post-mortems of failed Israeli military operations need to be issued before some lessons are learned? Apparently the Winograd Commission did not do the trick, and the Lindenstrauss flotilla report has already met the same fate less than 24 hours after being released. If Netanyahu sincerely plans on striking Iran, he had better have all of his ducks in a row, since the flotilla blowback is nothing compared to what will happen should Israel be unprepared for an Iranian or Hizballah response. Netanyahu has now used up his last credible excuse, since nobody is going to believe at this point that he has listened to every possible voice and considered a wide range of advice. He needs to firm up his decision-making process to ensure that whatever he choice he eventually makes is an informed one.