IL-20 - A Terrible Mistake: Yakov Kedmi, Ex-IDF: We Didn’t Mean to Do It, It Was An Accident
Yakov Kedmi, public figure, Israel: First of all, I'd like to express my condolences to the families of the dead. I'm not an official representative of Israel, so I can't apologize, only the officials can do that. But from a human standpoint, I'd like to express my condolences to those who died and their families. About this case, I fully agree with what your president said. It's a result of a series of tragic mistakes and, unfortunately, I should state that most of them were ours, starting from the decision to carry out an attack in close vicinity to the Russian Forces' bases, and finishing with what hasn't been taken into account: the fact that there was, and it was known and has always been known, that the command post is always aware of every plane in the air, a reconnaissance aircraft. Regarding the statement that it was an intentional set-up, an intentional provocation to hide behind that plane: it doesn't stand up to professional scrutiny and I'll explain why. The Israeli Air Force has conducted over 200 air-raids on Syrian territory. We've never been interested in Syrian air-defense systems. All the 200 raids were conducted even when missiles were launched by the Syrian air-defense. Generally speaking, not a single Israeli aircraft has been shot down by Syrian air defense since 1973. Except for the plane over the Sea of Galilee.
— But there was one.
— It happened because of a mistake by the Israeli pilot who decided that he had enough time to escape from the S-200 missile later. The Syrian air defense doesn't bother Israeli Air Force. And they don't even take measures to protect themselves. Moreover, an F-16 can easily escape from an S-200 missile, if it follows the instructions. So I don't think that the statement that somebody was hiding behind the Russian reconnaissance plane is professionally confirmed by our aviation tactics or what we did. The fact that they saw the plane but didn't pay attention to it was negligence.
It disappoints me, as an Israeli, that this isn't the first time that it's happened. I want to remind that in 1967 the Israeli Air Force and Navy at the end of the war, in 1967, attacked an American reconnaissance ship, the USS Liberty. They were Americans. About 80 people died from our attack, I believe so. It was a miracle that the ship didn't sink. When we finally realized that it was a mistake and our boat came to the ship offering help, they told us to get out of sight. It was a series of mistakes, professional ones, which lead to this result. The Israeli Chief of the Air Force, with the permission of the Headquarters Chief, gave an order to shoot down the Libyan plane which mistakenly entered our airspace and was already leaving, two miles from the Suez Canal. It was a mistake. A criminal mistake. The plane crashed, everyone died.
So it happens that both the military and good military men and good pilots don't take everything into account and sometimes treat those tiny details way too negligently, and behave on the verge of irresponsibility. This is what happened this time. But as your president said correctly: it wasn't an intentional act by Israel against Russian airmen, Russia, or the Russian Air Force.
But the result will be as follows: if the mutual understanding between Russia and Israel was based on the fact that Israel provides security to the Russian Forces despite their own actions, and the life of the Russian servicemen won't be threatened, then, possible or not, it doesn't stand the test of time. So your president said that you'll take different measures, the main aim of which is to protect Russian pilots because the previous agreement didn't work out in this case. It didn't, I repeat, because of mistakes. An unintentional, unnecessary mistake, it didn't need to and shouldn't have occurred. But we are all humans and even then not always.
And regarding… regarding the statement about the actions and the necessity of Trump, and all the Americans, to complicate the situation in Syria; the best answer to that, the smartest, the most effective, was given during the meeting between the Presidents of Turkey and Russia: the whole basis for any military interference by the USA has been terminated. The basis for blaming Russia for the attack on civilians has been terminated. Even the basis for the possibility of conducting a demonstrative, set-up operation with an alleged chemical attack has been terminated. Military operations in Idlib are not expected in the absence of combat. All the plans which Russia's enemies had hoped for are baseless today. And it's the best answer regarding the complicated situation in Syria. On the contrary, it gets better.
Igor Morozov, Federation Council: The task should be laid down in such a way — so it would be clear for everyone.
— Of course.
— The safety of our forces should be the basis.
— And the thing Yakov talked about, the unintentional character, first of all, in the tactics of air combat in regional conflicts is a thing. Hiding military operations behind civilian aircraft. It was everywhere. The American did it too, in the 80's, under the cover of a South Korean Boeing which we shot down.
— The most scandalous story.
— Of course. But they did it. And there were other incidents when military operations were covered up by civilian aircraft.
— Let's remember in Ukraine, in the very beginning of the conflict in 2014, when Ukrainian pilots hid behind civilian planes. It did happen. But I'm speaking about a different thing, I'm not trying to cover somebody up. I'm just saying that there'll be an investigation and it will become clear. But there initially shouldn't have been a situation, just as Yakov said, when our plane and our servicemen turned out to be in such terrible, horrifying circumstances which lead to their deaths.