Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday morning that retired Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tirkel will head the committee that will investigate the flotilla incident of two weeks ago. Netanyahu said the official announcement of the establishment of the committee will be made in the coming days, and “I expect to reach agreement with the U.S. on the matter within a short time.”
“Our guiding principle,” Netanyahu said, regarding the blockade on Gaza, “is to prevent arms and weapons from entering Gaza, but to allow in food and supplies.” He has hinted that the continuation of the blockade, which is permitted by international law, might not be the only way to achieve these goals.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he will remain in Israel to help set up the committee - and to this end, canceled his trip this evening to France. Barak and his decisions, such as the order to send barely-armed soldiers into the lynch mob awaiting them aboard one of the flotilla ships, will be among the committee’s main subjects of investigation. Former Shabak head Ami Ayalon said that Barak must “assume responsibility” for the flotilla events and the deterioration of Israel’s security situation.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has been assigned by Netanyahu the task of formulating a plan governing all openings, crossings and deliveries into Gaza, including land, air and sea. Katz has said that all Israel-Gaza crossings should be closed, leaving Egypt’s Rafah crossing into Gaza the only channel for entry of goods and people. Minister Katz said that all supplies arriving in Israel for Gaza should be delivered to Port Said, Egypt’s northern Sinai port, from where they will be sent to Gaza. According to Katz, it need take no more than a year to connect all of Gaza to Egyptian infrastructures such as electricity and water.
How Did Axes and Clubs Get on the Boat, and Other Questions
Netanyahu says that Israel and its actions will not be the only subject of the investigation. “The inquiry must include questions that some in the international community prefer to ignore,” he said, “such as who backed the [Turkish Muslim] extremists on the boat? Who trained them? How did axes, clubs and the like get on to the boat? What were the extremists doing with the same very large sums of money? The world needs to know the full picture, and we will make sure that the full picture will come to light.”
Netanyahu also emphasized that though he, the Defense Minister and other Israeli officials are willing to answer all questions, “we will insist and make sure that the only body that questions our soldiers will be the IDF. This is the practice in the armies of our friends around the world, and this is how we will act as well.”
Judge Tirkel's Background
Judge Tirkel served on the Supreme Court from 1995 until 2005. Though he does not wear a yarmulke, he was known as the “religious” judge because of both his traditional life-style and his penchant to quote Jewish Law [Halakhah] and its sources in his rulings.