Barak Ravid
June 1, 2010 - 12:00am

Senior ministers have been sharply critical of the fact that the decision to seize control of the flotilla to Gaza was made after two meetings of the forum of seven senior ministers but without official deliberation by the inner cabinet, the body that has the authority to approve military actions of this scale.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to return to Israel this morning from the United States, after canceling his scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington. He has convened the inner cabinet for 4 P.M. to discuss the implications of Monday's military operation.

Senior ministers have noted that, in contrast to the handling of similar incidents in the past, the inner cabinet did not discuss issues related to the flotilla, receive operational briefings or approve the operation. The forum of seven, which did consider and approve the plan, is a consultative body only and does not have the legal authority to pass resolutions.

The forum - Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence and Atomic Affairs Minister Dan Meridor, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Minster without Portfolio Benny Begin - held just two meetings on the flotilla, the latest on Wednesday. They approved the operation and the continuation of the Israeli policy of barring ships from docking in Gaza.

Much of the session was devoted not to the military operation but rather to media and public relations issues surrounding the issue. "The ministers who attended the meeting didn't get the impression from the defense establishment that a violent confrontation of this scope was likely," one senior Jerusalem official said. "The sense during the discussion was that the navy would come and the organizers would take fright, do an about-face and flee," he said.

According to senior officials who attended the session, a few ministers expressed differing views but in the end a consensus was reached and there was not even a vote. One of the most vocal participants in Wednesday's session was Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser. He was against the raid and said the ships should be allowed to dock in Gaza in order to avoid a diplomatic and public relations crisis as well as the embarrassment to Israel that a violent confrontation with demonstrators on the ships could cause. After senior defense officials expressed their opposition to Hauser's views, his position was rejected.


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