Last week saw the publication of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report on the 2010 raid of the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla [which turned violent when Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turkish nationals to prevent being lynched]. The report included a special section on the National Security Council. This week the comptroller is expected to release his report on the 2010 Carmel forest fire. This interlude is a good opportunity to set the facts straight.
Detractors of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu claim that the decision-making process depicted in the report applies to the deliberations on Iran; some have even gone so far as to say that the report is more damning than the Winograd Report on the conduct of the Second Lebanon War.
These claims are baseless.
The Iranian issue has been the subject of countless discussions in every possible forum. As for the comparison to the Winograd Report, a quick comparison of the death toll may put things in perspective: How many troops died in the flotilla raid and how many in the war?
For those with a penchant for drama — for criticism to work, it must be effective. Toppling incumbent governments is the opposition's responsibility as well as the people's. But the people, as it turns out, are not so stupid after all.
So what are the takeaways from the report? Some key questions on the government's inner workings have been raised: What are the prime minister's prerogatives on national security matters and strategic issues? Can he or she single-handedly decide on everything, such as on evacuating communities (as Ariel Sharon did) or on making peace (as Yitzhak Rabin did), or is he or she required to pass certain decisions through a wider decision-making apparatus? If the answer to the second question is yes, what constitutes the proper forum? What influence does the Committee of Heads of Security Agencies have on such a forum? What clout do the prime minister's advisors have (both formally and informally)? Are they just administrative spectators or should they be allowed to add their own input to the discussions? If they should be allowed to add their own input, then we must also decide what the best forum for that is.
The main faults listed by the comptroller revolve around the accusation that there was a "lack of staff work" by the National Security Council.
It is worth remembering that Netanyahu created the National Security Council [during his first term in office] and passed legislation that vests it with legal powers. He also tapped his senior adviser to head it [Dr. Uzi Arad, who later had to resign over alleged breach of classified material]. So it is a bit of stretch to say that Netanyahu — of all people — ignored the National Security Council Law.
Time and again, Arad made it seem that the prime minister reports to him under the National Security Council Law. When Netanyahu refused to comply with Arad's interpretation, by instructing the defense minister to coordinate the Israeli military response to the flotilla, a fuming Arad approached the comptroller.
Arad has since taken on an aggressive line against the prime minister before softening his rhetoric a bit, only to find another target — a serving member of the armed forces — the prime minister's military secretary, Major-General Yohanan Locker.
It seems that Arad, who has many qualifications and is privy to many state secrets, wants his former job back so that he can once again whisper into the prime minister's ear.
But Arad is the only one who refuses to acknowledge that trust is earned, not acquired by force. And when it is lost, it is hard to restore and undo the damage.
There is a common thread running through former Mossad director Meir Dagan and former Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin and Arad: They had access to secrets; they were the heads of respectable and important organizations, and now that they no longer hold that title, each of them wants to be king.
Lest anyone be confused — the state agencies serve the state, which is run by elected officials.
And the public gets to decide on its leaders; not some retired officials who were once privy to secrets but now cannot resist the temptation to share sensitive information with the rest of world.