MKs won’t call for state inquiry into Gaza flotilla

C'tee to give the government a week to decide how it will investigate.

June 8, 2010 06:50
3 minute read.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

Micha Lindenstrauss 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

The Knesset State Control Committee decided on Monday to give the government a week to decide how it will investigate the bloody seizure of the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara and of five other vessels trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It decided to reconvene next week to decide whether to call for an investigation of the affair by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, which could lead to a state commission of inquiry.

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Nine men aboard the ship were killed and more than 20 wounded after attacking the Israeli naval commandos who boarded it.

The committee convened to discuss a proposal by opposition MK Haim Oron (Meretz) to ask Lindenstrauss to examine the affair in accordance with Paragraph 21 of the State Comptroller’s Law. On the basis of the findings of the report, the State Control Committee is authorized to order the establishment of a state commission of inquiry, which is appointed by the president of the Supreme Court. The committee must approve the motion by majority vote.

Oron said he wanted a state commission of inquiry to investigate the government decision-making process leading up to the boarding operation and other problems, including the government’s failure to explain to the world, especially following news of the interception and the deaths on board, the reasons for the seizure and the reasons behind the casualties among the passengers.

In explaining his proposal, Oron told the committee that “the government caused a disaster to Israel. Of all the options at its disposal to deal with the flotilla, it chose the worst one.”

 Oron made it clear that he did not want to investigate the conduct of the commandos and added that a state commission of inquiry was the only way to guarantee an investigation that would be relevant to Israelis.

 “An international investigation will not be interested in the conduct of the ministers,” he argued. “A government appointed committee of examination would focus on the soldiers.”

 Committee members belonging to the coalition accused Oron and committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) of exploiting the failures in the operation to attack Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for political reasons.

“We are not sitting here out of concern for the national interest,” charged Likud MK Ophir Akunis. “You are seeking the heads of the prime minister and the minister of defense. I will not let this committee turn into a forum of coalition versus opposition.

The issue of the flotilla is just a small part of the struggle that Israel is caught up in.”

Akunis accused Hasson of improperly rushing to call for a state commission of investigation.

“What’s the big hurry?” he asked. “Let the government do its work. It has a much broader perspective. This is a political meeting. I regret that the state comptroller has to sit here and listen to it.”

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), who chaired the State Control Committee in the previous Knesset and was instrumental in appointing three state commissions of inquiry, said he had always had wall-to-wall agreement by coalition and opposition committee members before deciding to establish a commission of inquiry and that he had never called for one on a matter of national security that required national solidarity.

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, speaking on behalf of Netanyahu, also asked the committee to give the government more time to decide what to do. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss told the committee that he did not require an order from it to investigate the affair. He advised waiting a few more days to see what the government would do, and promised to pay close attention to the feelings of the committee members in deciding whether to investigate the affair according to his own volition.

All the coalition members, and most of the opposition MKs agreed that the government deserved more time to decide how to handle the matter.

But they also agreed that there was a strong need for an investigation and that the problematic operation could not simply be brushed aside.

Keeping that in mind, Hasson decided to convene another meeting next week to see what the government had done in the interim and to decide on the issue accordingly.

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