'US gave Israel time to decide on probe'

Israeli officials say America will wait for gov't's decision.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, E.B. SOLOMONT
June 4, 2010 05:06
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

barack obama 311. (photo credit: associated press)

Israeli officials said Thursday that the US has given them the leeway to resolve an internal debate about how to investigate the Gaza flotilla incident before imposing outside ideas.

They said that the US understood that Israel was considering additional measures beyond the IDF investigation, and that they would wait for Israel to decide on an approach before exerting any pressure to determine the probe’s contours.

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“They’re waiting to see what we’ll come up with and then perhaps suggest modifications,” one Israeli official said. “They’re still waiting to see how it plays out in Israel.”

Though it emerged that one of the nine people killed during Monday’s raid on a boat trying to break the Gaza blockade is a dual US-Turkish citizen, the Obama administration did not indicate any change of attitude.

“We expect the Israeli government to conduct a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation that conforms to international standards and that gets to all the facts surrounding this investigation,” US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Thursday.

He said that although Israel has not yet suggested there would be any investigation beyond the IDF review, “We are confident that an investigation will take place.”

There also seemed to be a small crack developing Thursday in the Israeli resistance to outside involvement, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman  said Israel has “nothing to hide” from a probe of its interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla.

“We have excellent jurists, such as Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Amnon Rubinstein – one of whom will be willing to take [the investigation] on himself,” Lieberman told Israel Radio. “And if they want to include an international member of some sort in their committee – that’s all right, too.”

Still, the foreign minister said Israel is capable of conducting its own investigation.

“We don’t need a guardian,” he said. “We need to investigate our intelligence failures, as well as our decision-making process.”

Other countries have called for an independent investigation, with many backing one led by the UN.

The US has said only that the investigation must conform to the standards laid out by the UN Security Council, the same ones Crowley laid out.

Crowley also noted, “We are open to different ways of ensuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we continue to talk about these ideas with the Israelis.”

US Vice President Joe Biden echoed his words in an interview Wednesday night. He said that the formula for an international presence could well follow that of the review South Korea did of a recent apparent attack by North Korea on one of its vessel.

“That was run by South Korea, but the international community joined in that investigation,” Biden pointed out. “And so that is very possible here as well.”

He added, “For all those who say the Israelis, you know, you know, you can’t trust them, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled today that every one of the people on those ships had to be released immediately, immediately.”

On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a resolution to dispatch an “independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.”

The council last year passed a similar resolution, which led to the Goldstone Report and accusations of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who swiftly condemned Israel’s interception of the flotilla, has also called for an investigation. After meeting with Turkish, Israeli and Arab representatives on Wednesday, he told reporters he is consulting with concerned parties, including members of the Security Council, to determine the next step forward.

Following a meeting with Ban, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev reported that she told the top UN official that tons of equipment and goods are delivered each day to Gaza. She stressed that the flotilla ship was far from peaceful; activists were armed with clubs, knives, steel rods and bars, among other weapons. She presented photographs depicting weapons evidence, which she said Israel believes the activists used to “lynch” IDF soldiers.

Shalev, expressing regret for the loss of life, emphasized that Israeli offers to transport the humanitarian aid to Gaza via Ashdod had been rejected by flotilla activists.


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