Israel waits on US, EU to launch probe

US denies it is backing a UN-led investigation.

June 13, 2010 02:16
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu lookin a little crazy 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Israel is yet to formally announce the formation of a panel to investigate the Gaza flotilla raid, amid reports of disagreements between the US and the EU regarding what shape the probe should take.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, a forum known as the “septet,” has reportedly agreed on a judicial committee, led by a retired Supreme Court judge, that would include a US and European observer, and would investigate both the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, as well as the manner in which Israel kept the flotilla from reaching the Strip two weeks ago.

'We didn't endorse UN flotilla probe'
We need an international inquiry – without US

A formal announcement, however, has been delayed pending agreement by the US and key European countries that they would back it. Israel does not want to be in a position where it announces an investigation committee, only to have to reverse itself because the investigation does not meet US or European requirements.

While the septet has agreed to the outlines of a committee, government officials said Saturday night that there were no plans to bring the matter for final approval before the entire cabinet at its weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Meanwhile, US officials on Friday sharply denied reports that the Obama administration was considering backing a UN-led investigation of the Gaza flotilla raid Friday.

Following a report in the Weekly Standard that the US was considering reversing itself to endorse a UN-led effort to set up an international investigation, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post: “We know of no resolution that will be debated at the UN on the flotilla investigation next week.” He reiterated that the US continues to support “an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial and transparent.” He and other officials, however, did not provide specifics on how an investigation spearheaded by Israel would work, or endorse the Israeli proposal.

The State Department did indicate, though, that intensive talks with Israel were ongoing.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the US had volunteered to help Israel with the investigation if it so desired, just as it was willing to help Turkey with the investigation it was conducting.

He offered the model of the recent South Korean government investigation into an apparent attack by North Korea on one of its vessels. In that case South Korea investigated the incident with international participants, which would roughly comport with the scenarios being described in Israel.

“We are working with the Israelis and others to see how we might be able to introduce an international component to that,” he said.

Israel starts internal flotilla investigation

The IDF has established a panel of military experts, headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, which has already started investigating the flotilla operation.

The Obama administration continued consultations with its Arab allies on the situation in Gaza and the indirect negotiations recently begun between Israelis and Palestinians.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday at the tail end of his Washington trip, and then with Jordan’s King Abdullah, there on a private visit, at his hotel later in the day. Abbas extended his trip to squeeze in the meeting, which focused primarily on the conditions in Gaza and the West Bank and the proximity talks. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who is serving as the mediator between the parties, is due to return to the region next week.

Clinton also addressed the issue of Iran Friday, and the anniversary over the weekend of last year’s presidential election. She said the administration stood with the people of Iran and expressed dismay that a planned opposition protest had been cancelled.

“It is not only regrettable that the opposition canceled demonstrations that are an expression of their political opposition, an exercise of their rights, but it demonstrates very clearly why the Iranian regime has caused so much concern around the world,” she said. “When you look at the combination of their repression of their own people, the manipulation of their own election, the fact that they still are an exporter and supporter of terrorist activities around the world, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons, it adds up to a very dangerous combination.”

Crowley later described last year’s elections as “illegitimate.”

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