The soldiers interviewed by the newspaper said they were upset by the criticism of the operation — less so by the international attacks than the domestic critics:
It has been very hard for us to listen to the criticism being thrown for the past few days. People are sitting in air-conditioned studios and act like they understand what went on. They think they invented the wheel. Anyone who said we could have behaved other than how we did is simply wrong.
According to Ynet, the violent combatants are believed to be Turkish, Yemenite, and possibly Indonesian, and are believed to have been recruited and paid for their efforts by IHH — the organization that organized and funded the flotilla. Their interrogation has been made difficult by their refusal to identify themselves, but the media reports say there is reason to believe some have ties to global jihad groups like al-Qaeda.
One senior official admitted that the IDF soldiers who embarked on their mission had possessed too little information on what awaited them, saying that “everything should be done in order to gather all the factual data and prove that the humanitarian sail had a semi-military body with a completely different goal.”
Another told Fox News that the IDF operation had “bad equipment, bad tactics, and bad intelligence.”
One certainly could add to the list “bad public relations.” Perhaps Israel’s biggest failure has been to tell its side of the story properly to the world.
As the story of the assault on the soldiers comes into sharper focus, so do the missed opportunities of the early morning hours in Europe and then the U.S. immediately following the operation — the time when the world was seeing only the bloody pictures circulated by the flotilla.
For those key hours, all Israel was offering to the international media were verbal explanations and justifications. It offered no video evidence of its account, which it possessed. Why in the world, angrily asks David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post, did it wait so long to release this crucial footage? Whoever was responsible for “sitting on” the footage of soldiers being attacked and beaten should lose his job, he declared:
Even allowing generous time for processing and editing the material, the footage could have been flashing across TV screens worldwide by our breakfast time, before news of the entire incident was even beginning to permeate. Would it have completely transformed the way the incident was reported and understood? No. Would it have greatly helped Israel’s case? Unquestionably.
Horovitz offered a challenge to the country’s prime minister: it is Netanyahu’s responsibility, he says, to apply the lesson of the the media failure of the Gaza flotilla and make necessary changes that could save Israel from such blunders in the future:
Will it spark the long overdue strategic overhaul of Israel’s conduct on the “second battlefield?” Will it finally prompt the prime minister to establish a single, effective, properly resourced hierarchy to coordinate the way Israel presents and explains its challenges in the media, legal, and diplomatic forums? As a former ambassador to the UN and a highly polished media performer, he of all people should understand what’s at stake. Surprise us, Mr. Netanyahu.