Israel to cooperate with UN flotilla probe

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

Israel on Monday decided to participate in a UN investigation into the May 31 interception of a Turkish-sponsored aid flotilla that was trying to break Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Nine people were killed in the confrontation, after the passengers aboard the flotilla's largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara, violently attacked and even abducted members of the Israeli boarding party. Nearly all of the fatalities were affiliated with the Turkish IHH, a terrorist supporting non-governmental organization.

Israel had originally refused to cooperate with an international probe into the incident, pointing to the extremely biased Goldstone Commission into the most recent Gaza war as evidence that such investigations are stacked against the Jewish state. Israel instead launched its own probe of the flotilla raid, and invited respected international figures to act as monitors.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet decided that in order to reduce tension with Turkey, it would be best to take part in the UN probe, especially considering how the US and Europe have more or less lined up with Israel over the flotilla incident.

Turkey, on the other hand, has led an exaggerated campaign to humiliate and punish Israel for intercepting the flotilla and killing nine of its more violent participants. Ankara had originally demanded that Israel issue a public apology, pay compensation to the families of the deceased and agree to an international investigation.

Following American and European pressure to tone down its reaction, Turkey recently said it would settle for just one of those conditions being met. Since Israel is not going to apologize to or compensate those who violently and illegally tried to break its Gaza blockade, Netanyahu's decision to work with the UN probe was seen as a gesture to the Turks by accepting the third demand.

But an Israeli official told Ynet that the UN team would be restricted in its proceedings. He said the UN investigators would not be permitted to interrogate Israeli officers, soldiers or civilians, and would have to make due with official documents and interviewing state officials.

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