The Israeli cabinet approved a three-man Israeli-led commission with two international observers: one from Canada and one from Northern Ireland, to examine Israel's role in the attack that killed nine humanitarian activists.
A spokesman for the secretary-general told reporters on June 14 that Mr. Ban had taken note of the Israeli announcement, but his proposal for an international inquiry “remains on the table.” Observers say that Mr. Ban's position is indicative of his doubt that an Israeli-led probe would be impartial. There have been discussions in the UN corridors that the secretary-general had been lobbying the Israelis to accept an international panel led by a former New Zealand Prime Minister.
While the UN may harbor doubts concerning Israeli impartiality in such a probe, the U.S. White House lauded the Israeli effort. The White House announced the day before the Israeli cabinet special session that it welcomed the Israeli call for a prompt and impartial probe of the incident.
“We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security,” the White House said in a statement. “We will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions,” stated the White House.
A U.S. State Department spokesman told reporters during a briefing on June 14: “Certainly, as a government, Israel has the institutions and certainly the capability to conduct a credible, impartial and transparent investigation.”
The White House may be satisfied with the Israeli probe, but human rights organizations say the probe falls short of meeting international standards for impartiality as the proposed panel includes only two foreign observers, who will have no say on the proceedings, or on the conclusions of the Israeli commission.
“The format of this government-appointed commission represents a disappointment and a missed opportunity,” stated Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and Africa, Malcolm Smart in a press release. “The commission looks to be neither independent nor sufficiently transparent, and the two international observers may be denied access to crucial information, and the findings may not be used in future prosecutions,” he added.
Human Rights Watch said: “The Israeli government has undermined the credibility of the appointed panel to investigate its military's deadly attack on the ‘Gaza Aid Flotilla' by preventing it from questioning Israeli soldiers or compelling the military from providing evidence.”
In the meantime, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuloglu said his government would insist on an international commission, according to Reuters. “If an international commission is not set up and Turkey's rightful demands are ignored, Turkey has the right to review its relations with Israel,” the foreign minister said.
Turkey is a member of the 15-nation UN Security Council that endorsed a “Presidential Statement” on June 1 condemning the attacks that led to the nine deaths, all were Turkish nationals, calling for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.”
It is being reported that port workers in Sweden have announced a boycott of Israeli ships, which follows the growing public fury in different European cities as well as Australia.
“A thorough investigation of the incident and the lifting of the siege against civilians in Gaza are essential steps. If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy,” stated an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on June 7.
Israeli officials since the May 31 attack have been denying that their three-year-old blockade against the Gaza Strip has affected its 1.5 million inhabitants. A UN report released on June 10 stated that the economic situation in Gaza remains “precarious.”
“The longer the closure continues, the more it undermines future prospects of workers and their families, in particular the younger generation,” states the International Labor Organization report. The ILO says that the unemployment rate in Gaza is nearly 40 percent, which is the highest in the world.
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