Israel approves internal probe into Gaza flotilla massacre, White House Applauds

June 14, 2010

by Michael Leon

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Resisting international pressure, Israel’s Cabinet acceded to allow a domestic inquiry into the Gaza flotilla massacre conducted by an Israeli investigative panel.

Though Israel has included two foreign observers as it continues to reject an international investigation, the move appears unlikely to satisfy the demands of the world community and human rights groups, such as Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, for an impartial and comprehensive inquiry.

Critics the world-over already are ridiculing the outcome of Israel’s investigation before it begins, predicting caustically: Israel will exonerate itself.

Newly released video footage of the massacre includes that of an American human rights worker being kicked repeatedly while lying on the deck of an aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, before being shot to death by Israeli Marines in international waters.

Though Israel’ self-defence line is falling apart in the face of the massacre of human rights workers at sea, the White House kept up its abiding support for Israel, saying the inquiry was a significant step, and that Israel is capable of conducting a fair investigation.

“But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. 

By Josef Federman

JERUSALEM – Israel’s Cabinet on Monday approved an investigation into the navy’s deadly raid on a flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for blockaded Gaza that will include two respected foreign observers in a step aimed at countering worldwide criticism of the operation.

Israel has been under heavy pressure to carry out an impartial inquiry into the events of May 31, when naval commandos clashed with activists on board a Turkish ship headed to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed, and dozens of people, including seven soldiers, were wounded.

Israel has rejected calls for an international investigation, saying the United Nations and other global bodies have a long history of bias against the Jewish state.

But in consultation with its key ally, the United States, Israel agreed to add two high-ranking foreign observers to bolster the credibility of the probe: David Trimble, a Nobel peace laureatefrom Northern Ireland, and Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, retired Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin.

Trimble is a member of a pro-Israel faction in Britain’s House of Lords. Watkin has been a visiting fellow in the human rights program at Harvard Law School.

Before Monday’s Cabinet vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was confident the makeup of the commission would blunt the international criticism and prove Israel handled the affair responsibly.

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