WASHINGTON - The government is expected to cooperate with the Unites Nations' investigation into May's deadly Navy raid
on a Gaza-bound flotilla, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday following a discussion with his top six ministers and talks held in the past few weeks in a bid to ensure that the panel and its mandate would be balanced and fair.
The decision was made following a firm request by the UN chief, which was relayed to the Israeli government during a personal meeting between Ban and Defense Minisetr Ehud Barak.
The expected cooperation is part of Israel's process of drawing conclusions following the Goldstone Report,
which accused the Israel Defense Forces of committing war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
Following his conversation with Ban on Monday, Netanyahu said that "Israel has nothing to hide. Quite the opposite: The State of Israel's national interest is to ensure that the factual truth on the entire raid incident will be known to the world."
Ban announced Monday that the panel would be led by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer as chair and outgoing President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe as vice chair. The Panel will have two additional members, one each from Israel and Turkey. It will begin its work on 10 August and submit the first progress report by mid September.
In a statement issued from the UN headquarters in New York, the UN chief said that "for the past two months, I have engaged in intensive consultation with the leaders of Israel and Turkey on the setting-up of a panel of inquiry on the flotilla incident of May 31. Today I am very pleased to announce the launch of the Panel. This is an unprecedented development."
He thanked Israel and Turkey's leaders for their "spirit of compromise and forward looking cooperation" and expressed his hope that the panel's activity would "impact positively on the relationship between Turkey and Israel as well as the overall situation in the Middle East."
Netanyahu and Barak shared the same opinion regarding the need to accept the UN chief's demand, in order to prevent an escalation in the relations and the establishment of a one-sided commission of inquiry. They both agreed that there was "no choice" but to accept.
The seven-minister forum decided to give the UN secretary-general a positive answer in principle, but the details have yet to be finalized and the name of the Israeli delegate has yet to be given.
According to a senior state official, Ban requested an answer by the end of this week. The official added that Israel sought to clarify additional points regarding the committee's authorities, including preventing pro-Palestinian organizations from appealing to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Washington shared the pressure on Israel to cooperate with the investigation, and similar messages were conveyed to Jerusalem by Minister Barak following his meetings with senior American officials and US President Barack Obama's senior advisors.
during the cabinet meeting last week that the committee appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the flotilla raid was "similar to the Goldstone Committee with unsympathetic trends, to say the least."
According to Netanyahu, Jerusalem was deliberating "how much technical material to provide them with, if at all."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report