WASHINGTON – The United States welcomed Israel's inquiry into its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, calling it an "important step forward."
The Israeli cabinet voted Monday in favor of creating of an internal committee, including two foreign observers, to probe the May naval raid, which left nine people dead.
- PM: Turkel probe will prove Israel acted lawfully
US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said that Washington saw the decision as a step towards meeting the UN's demand for an inquiry.
"I think this is an important step forward in what is called for in the UN Security Council presidential statement. That said, we're not going to prejudge the process or the outcome," he said.
Turkey, however, was quick to rule that the Turkel committee would be "completely unable to hold an impartial investigation." Ankara reiterated its demand for a UN-led probe, to which Crowley said that "Turkey, as any sovereign country, has a right to conduct its own investigation. I'm not aware that Turkey has reached its own judgment on how to proceed," he said.
During the daily press briefing Crowley was asked about the growing international pressure on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade. He said that the United States was working with it partners in the region to ensure that humanitarian aid be allowed into the Hamas-ruled territory.
"We are continuing to work with Israel, Egypt and others to try to figure out how to expand the amount of assistance to the people of Gaza... There are better ways to do so that through Iran.It remains a very legitimate concern that Israel has," Crowley added. "They have, in fact, in the past, intercepted ships that were carrying weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people."
The government named former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel head of the committee, which will also include international law expert and Israel Prize laureate Prof. Shabtai Rosen, and Brigadier General (res.) Amos Horev; as well as two foreign observers – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lord William David Trimble and former Canadian judge advocate general Ken Watkin.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he was convinced that the committee will find that Israel's actions were "beyond reproach."