Israel threatened Monday to pull out of a UN inquiry into a raid on a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza, after the UN chief said there is no agreement that the panel will refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify.
Last week Israel agreed to participate in the UN probe into the May 31 raid, when nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed after naval commandos boarded a Turkish vessel aiming to break Israel's blockade on Gaza.
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Officials said Israel's agreement was conditional on the panel relying on reports from Israel's own military inquiry, not testimony from soldiers.
But at a Monday news conference at UN headquarters on Monday,
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked whether he agreed not to call
Israeli soldiers before the panel.
"No, there was no such agreement behind the scenes," Ban said.
In response, the prime minister's Office issued a harsh
statement. "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu makes it absolutely clear
that Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel
that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers," it said.
Israel's agreement to join the probe represented a change in its policy
of boycotting UN probes. Israel has considered the world body and its
committees biased. This time, however, the world outcry against the raid
and the spotlight it turned on Israel's three-year blockade on Gaza
appeared to give Israel little choice but to cooperate.
Israel appointed retired senior diplomat, Yosef Ciechanover
to join the UN panel and was preparing for the start of its
deliberations on Tuesday when Ban made his remark, throwing plans into
A senior Israeli official said the advance agreement with Ban was that
requests for additional information or clarifications from the panel
would be routed through the Israeli representative, and soldiers would
not be called to testify.
"This was and remains a vital condition for Israeli participation in the
panel," he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because
he went beyond the government statement. This appeared to leave the door
open for Israel to resume its cooperation if soldiers are exempted from