IF GOD wills, even a broomstick can shoot – so I wrote after the appointment of the Turkel commission. I was quoting the Jewish saying in the hope that in spite of everything, something would come out of it.
The commission was born in sin. Those who appointed it were not interested in discovering the truth but in preventing the setting up of an international inquiry commission or an Israeli State Board of Inquiry. The “terms of reference” that were dictated to the commission were extremely narrow. At the beginning, the commission was not even empowered to compel witnesses to testify.
In short: a commission without wings, a broomstick without the brush.
I hoped that the members of the commission would not agree to dance to the government’s tune. Today it is still too early to judge whether they have passed this test, but it can already be said: they have broken their chains.
AFTER THE testimony of the three central witnesses this week – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi – one can already draw the first conclusion: the commission is ignoring the terms of reference that were imposed on it. The terms have disappeared. The commission hardly mentioned the subject it was charged with exploring - international law – and instead took up all the rest.
That was not difficult, because all three witnesses disregarded the terms of reference they themselves had framed. Each of them was so eager to show how right and wise he was, that the official subject of the investigation was well-nigh forgotten.
Thus a fait accompli was established: the commission is not fettered anymore by its terms of reference, but is dealing with all the aspects of the failed operation. (The terms of reference may however pop up again when the time comes to draw up their findings.)
IT WAS interesting to observe how the three testimonies were received by the media.
Almost all the media fell upon the first two witnesses and glorified the third.
Netanyahu was careless to the point of frivolity, put all the responsibility on Barak and did not even master the facts. After all, he was abroad at the time, so what do they want from him, it was Barak who managed the affair single-handedly.
After the media assaulted him ferociously, Netanyahu quickly convened an improvised press conference and grandly announced that he was taking all the responsibility upon himself.
Barak was more studious. He spoke endlessly, drowned the commission in a deluge of details and also took the responsibility upon himself, but immediately kicked it downstairs, to the military. The government, he stated, decides upon the mission, it is the military that is responsible for the implementation. He, too, was sharply taken to task by the media.
The Chief of Staff pointed to the errors in the execution of the operation which were committed by the lower military ranks, the navy and army intelligence, but with impressive magnanimity took upon himself the responsibility for these, too.
His testimony was a masterpiece. Rather surprisingly, it appeared that he was far more astute than the two experienced politicians. While they looked like slippery eels, out only to defend themselves, he appeared like a lovable, bumbling, unsophisticated bear, a simple, honest, artless soldier, radiating integrity, who tells the truth because he doesn’t know otherwise.
Ashkenazi is much smarter than he looks. True, his testimony may have been prepared by his advisers, but the smartness of a leader also finds expression in the ability to choose smart advisers.
Again it was proven that the media – and, indeed, the entire state – is controlled by the army. The same remarks that were greeted with jeers when uttered by Netanyahu and Barak were received with reverent attention when they came from the Chief of Staff. A chorus of admirers praised him on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers. What an honest person! What an upright soldier! What a responsible, level-headed commander! If there was any difference between the uniformed army spokesmen and the military correspondents in civilian cloths, it could hardly be discerned.ShareThis