Israel cooperate Gaza probe
Israel’s “Forum of Seven” comprising the seven senior cabinet ministers in the Israeli government, today approved Israel’s participation in an international commission of inquiry into the events surrounding the Turkish flotilla to Gaza in response to pressure applied by the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon. Nevertheless, substantial disagreement still exists between Israel and the Secretary General when it comes to when the investigation will begin and who will be on the committee.

Israel will take part in an international investigative committee of the IDF raid on the Gaza flotilla boats—so approved the Forum of Seven today (Monday). The committee, which will take form under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, will investigate the circumstances of the bungling of the operation in which nine pro Palestinian activists were killed and tens wounded, 20 Israeli soldiers among them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acquiescence in sanctioning the committee and appointing an Israeli representative for it was first published yesterday in Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper. Today’s decision by the Forum of Seven serves to put Netanyahu’s position in action.

In spite of the agreement, there are still substantial disagreements that remain between Israel and the UN regarding when the committee will begin its activities. Jerusalem prefers that the committee wait until Israel’s Turkel commission completes its work, though the UN wants the international committee to begin its work immediately.

Ban-Ki Moon relayed his demands during his meeting last weekend with Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the latter’s last visit to the United States. The Secretary General threatened that if Israel does not agree to cooperate with the committee, he would establish a committee void of an official Israeli representative.

Senior International Official: “We will not wait for the conclusions of the Turkel Committee.”

Israeli sources said two days ago that despite Israeli acquiescence, the committee will not begin its work immediately. There are still substantial disagreements between the Secretary General and Netanyahu regarding the committee’s authority  and the makeup of its staff, whose head is supposed to be the former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jeffrey Palmer, an Israeli Judge, and a Turkish judge.

Netanyahu told the Secretary General that the committee may even be unnecessary after the international community reads the conclusions of the Turkel Committee, but Ban refused to wait. Ban himself said last month that the Israeli investigation was “important, but will not merit international trust.” In the backdrop of this, a senior international official was quoted as saying “We do not intend to wait until the Turkel Committee submits its findings. The committee will be established within the next few days, and will begin its work in a short time.

Until now, Ban has refused to appoint an investigative staff without Israel’s cooperation, but it seems that this position has changed in light of heavy pressure applied by Arab and other Islamic states.