Court hints at more Turkel power

"If c'tee needs to probe soldiers, we'll discuss broader authority."

Turkel 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Turkel 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state and the Gush Shalom movement signed a compromise on Monday, agreeing to the High Court’s suggestion to put off hearing Gush Shalom’s petition demanding that the Turkel Commission of Inquiry into the May 31 flotilla seizure be allowed to question soldiers and security officials.
According to the decision, the petition will only be heard if the commission asks for the right to question soldiers and security officers “and the request is denied.”
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In its original petition, Gush Shalom called on the court to disband the commission, saying it lacked the necessary powers to properly investigate the failures involved in the flotilla operation.
After the government broadened the powers of the commission on July 4, the petitioners still demanded that it should be empowered to question soldiers and security personnel.
The cabinet decision to expand the commission’s prerogatives essentially turned it into a government-appointed committee of examination in accordance with Article 8a of the Government Law. The decision gave the commission the power to subpoena witnesses, order them to make available relevant documents and have them testify under oath.
At the same time, however, the decision made clear that it could not question any soldier or security officer other than Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
At the beginning of Monday’s hearing, Justice Miriam Naor acknowledged the petitioner’s argument that there was a problem “in establishing a commission like this and restricting its powers.”
Nevertheless, she continued, the problem might be hypothetical should the commission decide that it does not need to question soldiers in order to fulfill its mandate.
According to the cabinet decision, the commission was charged with examining the security circumstances leading to the imposition of the Israeli sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, the conformity of the blockade with the rules of international law, the legality of the flotilla seizure and the actions taken by the flotilla organizers.