Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the May 31st Israeli commando raid on the Turkish IHH-sponsored Mavi Marmara ship during testimony Monday before the Turkel Committee. That's the inquiry established to examine Israel's conduct in response to an international flotilla aimed to break the blockade on Gaza.
"I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will be clear that the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces conducted themselves in accordance with international law," Netanyahu told the committee.
He spoke about the serious threat the Hamas government poses to Israel, Hamas' kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006 and the necessity of preventing weapons from entering Hamas-controlled Gaza.
The Israeli PM later explained that IHH activists announced their intention to provoke a confrontation and that Israel worked to prevent a conflict with Turkey prior to the incident:
"Beginning on May 14, my office was in contact with the highest echelons of the Turkish government…to prevent any conflict with the Mavi Marmara flotilla. Despite our ongoing diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the Marmara's attempt to break the naval blockade."
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak revealed that Israel's inner cabinet, 'The Forum of Seven,' had received an intelligence assessment and a draft of the operation five days before the flotilla incident. Barak told the committee: "The politicians determined the 'what' and the IDF worked out the 'how' - and the IDF carried out the operation."
Barak said that he takes "overall responsibility for everything that took place in the systems under my command."
The committee will hear from the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gabi Ashkenazi, on Wednesday.
Netanyahu's decision to cooperate with a United Nations' probe into the flotilla confrontation surprised many when it was announced last week. He has since threatened to pull out if the panel insists on compelling Israeli soldiers to testify. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference on Monday that there "was no such agreement" regarding soldiers' testimony. In response, the Israeli Prime Minister's office issued a statement saying that Netanyahu "makes it absolutely clear that Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers."