Friend of Israel. Trimble
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Report: Turkel committee member launched pro-Israel initiative
Times says Lord Trimble, one of two foreigners named as observers on Israeli commission on inquiry into flotilla raid, started, coincidentally, Friends of Israel Initiative on day of incident. Blair: Israeli inquiry obviously significant step forward

Lord William David Trimble, the former first minister of Northern Ireland who was named as one of two international observers on the Israeli commission of inquiry into the raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, started a Friends of Israel Initiative on the day of the deadly incident, the Times reported on Tuesday.


Lord Trimble, 65, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, will observe the proceedings along with former Canadian judge advocate general Ken Watkin.


In 1998 Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with SDLP leader John Hume in honor of their joint role in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.


According to the British daily, Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair welcomed Israel's decision to investigate the raid.


"The Israeli inquiry is obviously a significant step forward,” the Times quoted Blair as saying. “In respect of the closure policy, I hope very much that, in the next days, we will get the commitment (in principle) that we require but then also the steps beginning to be taken. Some of these issues, drawing up the negative list, will take some time. But we hope very much we can start getting stuff into Gaza.


"There are also a whole series of UN projects which are ready to go. The UN has a specific way of getting material in — we are talking about repairing schools, the electricity, water, sanitation, housing — we can get that under way very quickly, I believe,” said Blair.


'Turkey has a right to conduct its own investigation'

On Monday the Israeli cabinet voted in favor of creating an internal committee, including two foreign observers, to probe the May naval raid, which left nine people dead.


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 the two foreign observers.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was convinced that the committee will find that Israel's actions were "beyond reproach."


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. 


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