Several Israeli ministers have accused the army of “spin” over its claims that activists on board a Gaza-bound flotilla plan to harm Israeli soldiers, Maariv newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The paper quoted several unnamed members of Israel’s security cabinet as saying the claims were “media spin” and “public relations hysteria.”
On Monday, Israeli military spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitz said there were “radical elements” among the activists participating in the sea convoy, including some carrying “dangerous incendiary chemicals.”
But security cabinet ministers told Maariv they were given no such information when they were briefed on the flotilla this week, and even accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office of being behind the disinformation.
“Netanyahu decided to change the version about the nature of the flotilla for two reasons that are connected to the international community,” one of the ministers, who were not named, told the newspaper.
“The first is for reasons of covering himself — if, suddenly, in the course of the military operation something goes awry and there are casualties, Israel will be able to say that it warned of that in advance.
“The second reason is to apply pressure on the international community so that governments will prevent the ships from leaving for the flotilla from the outset.”
Meanwhile, Haaretz reports:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been trying to turn down the flame on the violent predictions for the Gaza aid flotilla, some of which were fueled this week by the defense establishment itself.
Barak told Channel 2 news on Wednesday night that while he has directed the Israel Defense Forces to stop the flotilla by force, if necessary, he believed that while pockets of resistance were possible the flotilla participants this year would be less violent than last year’s.
But political and military leaders are in fact more worried about the 2010 flotilla than the imminent one.
More precisely, they fear the implications of state comptroller’s report on the raid, the draft of which was recently submitted to the relevant senior officials.
Despite tendentious leaks to the contrary, the main target of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is not Barak, although he does come in for criticism (including for his refusal to cooperate with the National Security Council ).
So will former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, for his absence from the war room during the naval raid.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is directly in Lindenstrauss’ sights, for his insufficient level of involvement in the planning and decision-making stages.