The cabinet will be called into special session on Monday morning and asked to approve the establishment of a special independent committee to investigate the Gaza flotilla raid that will include an observer from Canada and one from Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister's Office announced close to midnight on Sunday.
The White House responded to the announcement, saying the proposed committee was an important step, that the administration had confidence in Israel's ability to conduct an impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. The statement stressed that as prompt as possible presentation of the investigation results to the international community was now of the essence.
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The committee will be headed by retired Supreme Court judge Jacob
Terkel, with the other Israeli members being international law expert
Shabtai Rosen, and Maj.-Gen (res.) Amos Horev, who formerly served as
president of the Technion.
The international observers, who will participate both in
the hearings and the consultations, are David Trimble, a politician from
Northern Ireland who served as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
(UUP) and shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, and Canadian Ken
Watkin, the former Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces.
According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office, the
committee will make determinations regarding whether the steps Israel
took to prevent ships from reaching the Gaza coast, and "other matters
tied up with this," were in accordance with international law.
The PMO statement, issued close to midnight, said the committee will
also deal with the following matters:
• The security circumstances that led to the naval blockade
• The acts Israel took on May 31 to stop the flotilla from reaching
Gaza, and whether these were in accordance with international law
• The steps taken by the organizers of the flotilla and the identity of
those who took part.
The statement said the committee can request testimony from anyone or
any organization, including the prime minister, defense minister, chief
of general staff and government ministers.
Regarding questioning soldiers, the committee will have
access to the
conclusions of the investigation and will be able to request documents
from an IDF-established committee, headed by former head of the National
Security Council Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, looking into the
operational aspect of the incident. If the committee decides that
further investigation into these matters is needed, it will have the
authority to instruct Eiland to do so.
The committee can close the hearings to the public if it feels that open
hearings will endanger the country's security or its diplomatic
relations with other countries.
According to the statement, testimony given the committee will not be
used in any possible court procedure against anyone involved.
The appointment of Terkel to head the probe has raised eyebrows regarding what the committee would be empowered to do, since in an Army Radio interview last week, he said he was not an advocate of investigative committees drawing “personal conclusions” concerning those involved.
“I am not a fan of personal conclusions,” he said.
“What is foremost in my mind is the principle. Whether someone will be removed from his position, or whether his promotion will be frozen, is secondary in my mind.”
Terkel, whose comments came before he was approached to head the committee, said the intelligence-gathering that preceded the raid on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara
two weeks ago had not been not sufficient, and that not all possibilities had been properly considered.