Netanyahu praises Turkel commission’s report

PM says report shows Gaza blockade, enforcement legal; report shows IDF soldiers who boarded Mavi Marmara acted legally, in self-defense.

By DAN IZENBERG
January 24, 2011 05:09
3 minute read.
PM Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting

Netanyahu leaning 311. (photo credit: Emile Salman)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the Turkel Commission report by saying it showed that the blockade of Gaza, as well as the enforcement of the blockade, was legal.

Furthermore, he said, the report showed that the soldiers “who boarded the [Mavi] Marmara acted legally and in self-defense.”

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Netanyahu’s comments came at a ceremony in the Prime Minister’s Office where he was selecting posters for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Against the backdrop of those posters, he said there were those today who would deprive Israel of the right and power of self defense.

“This is what happened last May,” he said, “when Israel enforced a naval blockade to prevent weapons and war material from infiltrating the terror organizations in Gaza.”

Netanyahu said the Turkel Commission was “independent, “ “transparent” and “impartial.”

“I hope that all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and against its soldiers will read these reports and learn the truth about what happened,” he said. “The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives. This is not only their right; it is their duty. The State of Israel stands behind them and thanks them for their courage.”

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The findings will now be passed on to the UN panel established to review the May 31 flotilla incident. The panel is being led by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, an expert on maritime law, and outgoing president of Colombia Alvaro Uribe. Israel is represented on the panel by Yosef Ciechanover, and Turkey by Ozdem Sanberk.

This committee is expected to review both the Turkel Report and a report put together by the Turkish government, and release a statement of its own on the incident.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a graph comparing the two committees, and pointing out glaring differences.

For instance, while the Turkel committee was established two weeks after the incident and conducted its work over a period of seven months, the Turkish committee was established on August 11 and finished its work in some three weeks. Furthermore, while the Israeli committee’s hearings were, for the most part, held in public, and the Turkel Commission had a website open to all on which the report appears in English and Hebrew, the Turkish report was never published, and the public had no access to the committee.

Also, while the composition of the Turkel committee was well known, the makeup of the Turkish committee was never made public.

Two of the human rights organizations that appeared before the Turkel Commission during its public hearings blasted the report’s findings on Sunday.

“No commission of inquiry can authorize the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza, of which the maritime closure was an integral part,” asserted Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

“International law permits restricting movement for purposes of security so long as Israel protects the rights of residents in Gaza to engage in normal life.

However, imposing a closure for purposes of punishment is forbidden, as the International Committee of the Red Cross stated in reference to the maritime incident,” it continued.

Meanwhile, Physicians for Human Rights issued a statement saying that “if holding one-and-a-half million people in conditions of prison for years, where they cannot buy food or earn a living on their own, [and] without being able to receive proper and timely medical attention, appears to the commission members to be protecting human rights, they are suffering from moral and judgmental blindness.”

According to the group, “61% of Gaza’s citizens (973,600 people) suffer from nutritional insecurity, and about 80% are dependent upon humanitarian aid from various UN agencies.

Some 95% of the water in Gaza is unworthy of drinking, and unemployment rose in the three years before the flotilla by 40%.

As a result, the percentage of children suffering from growth problems (underweight, shortness, or the relationship between height, weight and age) increased by 79% between 2007 and 2009. These figures, however, make no impression on the members of the committee.”

Eliezer Sherman contributed to this report.

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