Israel softens EU council flotilla criticism

Turkish effort to issue condemnation of Israeli operation thwarted.

IDFsoliderbeatenOnFlotilla311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson.)
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson.)
An Israeli parliamentary delegation successfully lobbied the Council of Europe to thwart a Turkish effort Thursday to issue a condemnation of Israel’s response to the May 31 Gaza flotilla. It also blocked a Turkish bid to establish an international investigative committee within the framework of the Council.
The council’s final motion contained calls on Hamas to permit visits to kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, and described Israel’s response to the flotilla as “manifestly disproportionate” and a breach of international law.
”We managed to get them to refrain from condemning Israel and from taking an operative decision to establish an investigative committee,” said MK Yochanan Plesner (Kadima), the head of the Knesset’s delegation to the Council of Europe. “Instead, they made do with a general statement that there should be an international probe, but also recognized the Israeli committee [investigating the incident]. We made sure to add mentions of Gilad Schalit and a call for him to be given visits from the Red Cross.”
On the down side, noted Plesner,“they called for a full lifting of the blockade, showing that Israel’s decision to relax the blockade was not marketed correctly by the government. They simply said that they ’took note’ of the relaxed terms, but did not congratulate or welcome anything positive.”
Plesner said that the Turkish delegation – which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe – “went out to a coordinated battle, but others in the council understood that the Turkish matter is more complex and didn’t necessarily get drawn into it.”
The president of the council, according to Plesner, said earlier in aninterview with a Turkish newspaper that he intended to establish aninternational investigation within the framework of the council.
Despite the lack of support for the Turkish initiative, Plesner saidthat “the attitude even among our friends was difficult. I wanted toinclude mentions of the fact that the flotilla wasn’t entirelyhumanitarian and that the participants weren't all peace activists, butthere was no support for that.”
The final motion, Plesner complained, “is paradoxical in that it callsfor giving the Israeli investigative committee a chance, but on theother hand already came to the conclusion that Israel’s actionsviolated international law.”
The Strasburg-based Council of Europe is an inter-parliamentary groupconsisting of over 500 delegates representing 50 European countries.Israel has held observer status for decades at the council, which iscurrently holding its summer session.