In the end, Netanyahu approved a plan for the Israel Navy to board
Marmara with commandos armed with paintball guns, Middle East Newsline reported. The commandos were quickly
overpowered by Turkish fighters until the Israeli commander ordered live
fire, which killed nine passengers, eight of them Turks.
The Obama administration demands were relayed through Israeli Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, the sources said.
They said Barak, who has sought advanced weapons from Washington, persuaded
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree that the Israel Navy would not
use anti-riot equipment, including tear gas, to stop the flotilla.
The sources said the Israeli intelligence community had informed the
White House that the flotilla contained scores of Turks trained in weapons
and hand-to-hand combat. They said the Turkish-flagged ship Marmara was
believed to have contained weapons and components ordered by the Hamas
regime in the Gaza Strip.
Obama, whose aides were said to have been in contact with the flotilla,
did not condemn the Israeli naval interception. But within hours
of the bloody clash, the president withdrew his invitation to Netanyahu to
come to the White House.
"The last thing the president wanted was to stand next to Netanyahu as
he defended this action and blasted Hamas and its supporters in the West,"
another source said.
The sources said Barak and Netanyahu decided on the details of the
interception without consulting a seven-member security Cabinet committee.
Later, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, a former chief of staff,
asserted that the naval operation had endangered the commandos.
"The prime minister decided to settle everything with the defense
minister," Ya'alon was quoted as saying. "Netanyahu shouldn't have left such
fateful decisions to an irresponsible defense minister drunk with power."
In wake of the clash, Obama has sought to ease tensions with Turkey. On
June 2, Obama telephoned Prime Minister Recep Erdogan amid rising Islamist
threats against Turkey's Christian and Jewish communities. The following
day, a Roman Catholic bishop was killed by an alleged Islamist.
"Obama told Erdogan 'Don't rock the boat too much. We'll take care of
business,'" another diplomatic source said. "It was a very friendly
On June 4, the administration, which reinvited Netanyahu, demanded the
easing of Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip. The White House said the United
States was working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to "develop new
procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza, while also
increasing opportunity for the people of Gaza and preventing the importation
"The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed," White
House spokesman Mike Hammer said. "For now, we call on all parties to join
us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any
unnecessary confrontations and to ensure the safety of all involved."