Israeli special missions veteran deplores raid plan
A second Israeli special operations veteran has denounced his government’s handling of the boarding operation in international waters off Gaza.
Mike Eldar spent two decades in the Israeli navy, which included the command of an amphibious special missions unit, Shayetet 11, during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He later wrote books about that and another elite unit, Shayetet 13, the same navy commandos sent to intercept the aid mission Monday night.
Like Victor Ostrovsky, the former Israeli navy and Mossad operations officer interviewed by SpyTalk earlier this week, Eldar said the tactics used to neutralize the flotilla headed for Gaza made no sense.
“I cannot explain it,” he said by phone from Israel. “The only explanation is stupidity, super egos.”
“Mossad should have certainly had agents aboard the ships,” he said, to advise the commandos on how to proceed, “but if they did, then how can we explain this fiasco?”
But Eldar, 64, rejected Ostrovsky’s view that the botched operation, which resulted in scores of civilian casualties and nine dead, including an American citizen of Turkish origin, was rushed to accommodate orders from Israel's civilian leadership.
“It was not a rush job,” said Eldar, who was also involved in the navy's clandestine “Ghost Winds” sabotage raids against Palestinian ships during his career. “They had at least two weeks to prepare, with lots of practice. It was not a hasty attack.”
The code name for Monday’s nighttime mission, “Sky Winds 7,” meant that it had been preceded by six other seaborne operations, Eldar said -- but with a crucial difference: Those missions would have involved boarding hostile cargo ships manned by small crews, perhaps 15 seamen and officers combined. In contrast, the this week's flotilla included hundreds of passengers, most of them Turks.
Although there were certainly hostile elements aboard the ships -- “shahid, Islamic martyrs who wanted to die,” Eldar called them -- Monday’s mission called for entirely different tactics, he said.
“They have other systems. I don’t know why they didn’t use them,” he said.
Like Ostrovsky, who spent six years in the navy before being recruited by Mossad, Eldar said the Israelis should have just disabled the ships’ propellers “and let the Turks bring them food and water.”
“It would be no problem for the frogmen and their equipment,” he said.
Instead, the raid turned into a “fiasco” when the black-clad commandos descended out of the darkness onto the top decks from roaring helicopters -- many armed with only paint guns “to show they came with good will,” Eldar scoffed. Their arrival sparked a pitched battle.
“It should have ended in a reasonable way,” he said. “Instead bad people are being received in Turkey like heroes, and we are the bad guys.”
Eldar said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former head of special operations himself, who would have had overall responsibility for the raid, “should consider resigning.”
But no heads will roll, he ventured. “Even if someone is held accountable, no one will be sacked. They’ll say, ‘You fought bravely, you did your mission.’”
Indeed, Barak congratulated the unit Thursday.
“I have come in the name of the Israeli government to say 'Thank you,'" the defense minister told the soldiers at their base in Atlit, according to Israel News.
"You operated under difficult conditions and carried out your mission to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza,” Barak was quoted as saying. “I trust all of the commanders here to investigate the operation in order to draw the necessary lessons for the next time.”
| June 3, 2010; 11:05 PM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Military | Tags: Ehud Barak, Mike Eldar
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