Israel Navy at Flotilla
Israel Navy at Flotilla Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has presented for his cabinet's approval his proposed composition of an independent Public Commission to investigate “the actions taken by the State of Israel to prevent the arrival of ships to Gaza on 31.5.10.”

The commission will be chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Turkel, and will include international law expert Professor Shabtai Rosen and Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Horev, a former president of the Technion.

Two foreign observers have been selected as well, “in light of the unique international aspects of the event,” government spokespeople said. The two are Irish politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate William David Trimble and former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian army Brigadier-General Kenneth Watkin.

The commission's job will be to determine the identities and actions of those who organized and participated in the Gaza-bound flotilla that included the Marmara, to determine whether Israel's naval blockade on Hamas-run Gaza conforms with international law, and to examine Israel's actions to stop ships from reaching Gaza and in particular the IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara.

The commission will be granted the power to request any relevant information from the government, and to request any individual or entity to testify, with the exception of IDF soldiers. Testimony on IDF operations will be given by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

"This committee will show the world that Israel is acting responsibly, according to the law, and with full tranparency,” Netanyahu said Monday.

Announcement gets Mixed Reactions

Reactions to the establishment of the commission were mixed. “The establishment of an Israeli committee with international observers will strengthen and preserve our status in the international community,” said MK Otniel Schneller of Kadima.

“Israel must make it clear that we acted – and will continue to act – according to accepted international standards when facing terrorists disguised as peace activists,” he added.

However, MK Nachman Shai, also of Kadima, said, “This may somewhat lessen international criticism of Israel, but the Israeli public deserves to really and truly know the truth, and only the truth, regarding the difficult questions that arise from the way this crisis was handled.”

IDF Starts its Own Probe

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi has appointed former National Security Council head Giora Eiland to head an internal military probe of the incident, in which naval commandos were attacked by members of the Turkish terrorist group IHH as they boarded a Gaza-bound flotilla and opened fire in response, killing nine.

The commission will try to determine whether the operation to board the boat was tactically correct, or if a different method – or different unit – should have been used. It will also look into Israeli intelligence gathering prior to the event.