UN may put forward int'l flotilla probe

By JORDANA HORN IN NEW YORK
June 17, 2010 02:49

Ban proposes investigation despite establishment of Terkel Committee.

4 minute read.



Flotilla Committee

Flotilla Committee 311. (photo credit:Moshe Milner)

Israel responded coolly Wednesday to indications that despite the establishment of the Terkel Committee to investigate the Gaza flotilla, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was still considering the establishment of an international panel to look into the May 31 IDF raid.

Ban’s office proposed the idea at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, and a spokesperson in his office said the office was currently involved in talks to determine the potential leadership of such a commission.

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Both Israel and Turkey would be encouraged to actively participate in the panel, representatives of Ban’s office said Wednesday.

“The secretary-general is in discussions with different parties to see whether an inquiry with credible international involvement can be accepted by all,” the spokesperson said.

A senior Israeli official noted that Ban did not make any recommendation, but that this was only a “proposal.”

“Israel believes that our investigations meet the highest international standards of impartiality, comprehensiveness, transparency and professionalism,” the official said.

Israel currently has three independent investigations into the incident – an IDF inquiry headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland; the Terkel Committee that was established on Monday; and a state comptroller investigation.

UN envoy: Ban still looking into probe idea

On Tuesday, Robert Serry, the UN’s special envoy to the Middle East, said that Ban was still looking into the idea of a UN investigation.

“The Secretary-General has taken note of Israel’s announcement and recognizes that a thorough Israeli investigation is important, and could be consistent with the Secretary-General’s own proposals for an international panel – the two combined would fully meet the international community’s expectation for a credible and impartial investigation,” he said, in a statement.

“The Secretary-General’s proposal is not incompatible with domestic inquiries, in fact, the two approaches are complementary, so his proposal, accordingly, remains on the table,” he said.

Serry also told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Israel has agreed to release the cargo from the boats barred from reaching Gaza to UN “on the understanding that it is for the United Nations to determine its appropriate humanitarian use in Gaza.”

Israel had previously attempted to convey the 70 truckloads of confiscated goods to Gaza, but Hamas had refused to allow them in.

Security cabinet meets on Gaza blockade

Meanwhile, the security cabinet met Wednesday to discuss easing restrictions on what is allowed into Gaza. It is expected to finish the discussion on Thursday with an agreement to draw up a list of goods prohibited from entering Gaza, rather than a list of good permitted into the area, and to agree that construction material can be allowed in for earmarked projects if mechanisms are in place to ensure that they are not diverted to Hamas’s use.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, at odds over government coordination during the flotilla episode, clashed in the meeting over Barak’s suggestion that Israel deflect the world’s criticism over the flotilla incident by launching a far-reaching diplomatic initiative.

Such a move, he argued, would also make it easier for the US to help Israel out of its isolation.

Ya’alon said it was clear that Barak would push to relieve Israel’s international isolation by coming up with a widespread diplomatic initiative.

Ya’alon has made clear in recent days that he is against Israel making diplomatic concessions because of the difficult straits the country finds itself in now because of the flotilla incident.

Terkel Committee meetings to be held in Hebrew

The Terkel Committee held an organization session on Wednesday, where it was decided that the committee’s hearings will be held in Hebrew, with simultaneous translation for the two international observers, David Trimble and Ken Watkin. Neither man has yet arrived in the country.

It was also agreed that the committee’s hearings would begin as soon as possible, and that a spokesman for the committee would be appointed in a matter of days.

Amnesty disappointed with probe decision

Amnesty International responded with disappointment to the cabinet’s appointment of a committee to investigate the Gaza flotilla affair.

“The structure of the governmentappointed committee brings disappointment.

This was a missed opportunity,” said Malcolm Smart, the head of the Middle East and North Africa division of Amnesty International.

Smart criticized the Israeli flotilla probe committee on the grounds that it lacked sufficient independence from the government to reach meaningful conclusions and that the findings of the committee would be unusable for future legal actions.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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