Flotilla raid. Under international scrutiny
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Photo: Gadi Dagon
Prof. Lerner: Israel must correct damage
Photo: Gadi Dagon
Kohn: Israel hesitated too long
Photo: Ata Awisat

Official: State won't allow UN to question Israelis

Source says Israel had no choice but to cooperate with UN flotilla probe, but will set strict guidelines

State officials stressed Monday that though Israel had agreed to cooperate with a UN probe on the IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May, the government would not allow the committee to interrogate Israeli officers, civilians, or soldiers.


"There was no choice but to agree to the international community's demands, first and foremost those of the US and the UN," one official source said.


"We could have been considered naysayers, or we could have done what we did, which was to take part in determining the mandate that will be given to the committee and affect its program."


The source said the committee would have been established in any case, even without Israel's consent. "Though Israel didn't want another inquiry, there was no choice," he said.


However he stressed that the committee would not receive testimony from any Israeli citizen or military official, and would have to make do with documents. At most it will be permitted to interrogate state leaders.


Meanwhile Turkish media has reported that the country's representative at the committee will probably be an established former diplomat.


Of the Israeli representative, no decisions have been made. "We are still oscillating between two options: A retired senior diplomat, or an international jurisprudent. The decision will be made in the coming days," said the official, adding that the government had not yet named any names.


'The right decision'

Many in Israel praised the government's decision. Yossi Shain, a professor of Political Science in Tel Aviv University, called it the "right decision".


"Israel wants to reduce tension and prevent additional flotillas, as well as express international cooperation, and this is the right way to do that," he told Ynet. "The mistakes were clear. The Eiland report highlighted them, and now we need to correct the damage on another plane – the damage is worse on the international front."


Professor Natan Lerner, of Israel's most respected experts on international law, agreed. He said the Goldstone committee on Operation Cast Lead, with which Israel refused to cooperate, had concluded that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza because the state was adamant in refusing to talk to it.


"We need to be realistic," he said. "We have to take our place in the international community."


The US on Monday also praised Israel's decision to cooperate with the probe. "We thank both governments (Israeli and Turkish) for the constructive and cooperative spirit they have shown and the Secretary General for his leadership and determination," said Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.


Rice stressed that the UN probe was meant to complement national investigations by Israel and Turkey.


"The United States also hopes that the panel can serve as a vehicle to enable Israel and Turkey to move beyond the recent strains in their relationship and repair their strong historic ties," she added.


'Why should we make world happy?'

But there are also those who oppose the cooperation. Irit Kohn, vice president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers, believes that if Israel had established a state inquiry committee, international pressure would have abated.


She said Israel had hesitated for too long before setting up an investigation on the flotilla. "When we don't fill up the empty spaces, clearly they will be filled by international moves," she told Ynet.


But she called on the government to answer to the Israeli public rather than the world. "Why should we make the world happy?" she asked. "If there is justification for what happened, the people want these answers too."


Aviel Magnezi and AFP contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 08.03.10, 00:51
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