Now, this is getting interesting. With the UN Secretary General proposing a commission to investigate the Mavi Marmara attack, Israel is moving into high gear with its dueling investigations designed to manage and deflect from any international effort to provide accountability for Israel’s actions.
Israel is considering two separate investigations, a military one headed by long-time intelligence official Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland and a separate panel whose members would be “jurists. Part of the group would be two”observers” appointed from outside Israel. Both bodies will be essentially useless in terms of providing accountability for Israel’s actions (or the alleged passenger attack). The IDF investigation will be operational in nature, seeking to determine what went wrong and why. It is not designed to assign blame and will not discipline or reprimand anyone.
Regarding Israel’s so-called “independent” panel:
…The government is awaiting a “green light” from the United States and other sources on a separate proposal for how to investigate the incident. The government’s seven senior ministers agreed yesterday to establish a panel of jurists to probe the raid, whose work would be independent of the IDF probe.
…Discussions over the nature of the committee were conducted all day yesterday between the Prime Minister’s Bureau and the White House, continuing well into the night. Dan Shapiro, who holds the Middle East portfolio at the U.S. National Security Council, was in Israel to discuss an investigation of the raid with Netanyahu’s advisers.
A senior source in Jerusalem said the panel would be comprised of top jurists with experience in international and marine law. Two international jurists – at least one of them American – would be invited to participate as observers, the source added.
In addition to investigating the circumstances surrounding the navy’s seizure of the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the committee would also be charged with examining the legality of Israel’s naval and land blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The panel would also examine whether the navy used proportionate or disproportionate force during its takeover of the ship. Israel says the deaths occurred after the naval commandos were viciously attacked by the passengers and were forced to open fire in self-defense.
However, the forum of seven ministers decided, the panel will not be allowed to interrogate soldiers or officers who took part in the commando raid. It is not yet clear whether it will be allowed to interrogate senior IDF officers such as Ashkenazi and Israel Navy commander Adm. Eliezer Marom.
Make no mistake, this is a bogus proposal with no hope of permitting any probing or serious inquiry into the events that led to the debacle. Any investigation led by any Israeli jurist, no matter how much probity that person might muster, cannot possibly surmount the myriad conflicts of interest involved in Israel investigating itself. The fact that the commission will have no voting members who are not Israeli is the coup de grâce. The category of “observer” is essentially meaningless, the equivalent of an empty suit sitting in the chair of judgment. Any American who agrees to serve on this body is painting lipstick on a pig.
Further, the Obama administration appears only interested in “managing” this crisis and not permitting any authoritative probe. If Dan Shapiro, coming to Israel as Obama’s fixer, thinks he can massage this to come out with a product that is satisfactory to anyone, he’s sorely mistaken. In fact, I think both Israel and the U.S. are primarily interested in defanging any looming UN investigation, much as they tried to do to the Goldstone report. Though in a literal sense they succeeded, the Goldstone report continues to play a powerful supporting role testifying to the excesses (“crimes,” if you will) of Israel’s war in Gaza and its failed policies there.
The more Shapiro and the Obamaites scheme against a real independent investigation with teeth, the more they will fuel support of this option. The flotilla attack is not an issue that can be massaged or managed. It is a gaping, bleeding wound in Israel’s international image. If not addressed head-on in a serious way, all their schemes will come back to bite them. You can lay money on it.
Ban Ki Moon has floated an international investigation under the leadership of former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, who is an expert on the international law of the sea:
Over the weekend, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, telephoned Mr Netanyahu to propose the establishment of an international panel of enquiry led by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the former prime minister of New Zealand and an expert in international maritime law.
He also proposed involving representatives from Turkey, under whose flag the Mavi Marmara sailed during its attempt to lead a six-ship flotilla into Gaza to deliver aid in breach of an Israeli naval blockade of the territory.
Turkey’s government immediately backed the UN proposal. “This is not an issue between Turkey and Israel, it is a problem between Israel and international community,” Ahmed Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, told CNN on Sunday. “It is a problem between Israel and international law”.
This is the only viable plan. The sooner Obama gives up on cosmetics and turns to the UN option, the sooner his policy regarding this dreadful tragedy can be seen as credible.
The other wild card in this process is Bibi’s conviction that if he engages in some sort of cosmetic easing of the Gaza siege, this will act as a pressure valve to deflate the campaign for an investigation. Israel has proven itself a master of this game of deflection, suggesting compromises that appear meaningful to anyone who doesn’t understand the country’s modus operandi when faced with such universal outrage and condemnation. Again, let’s be clear: there is only one acceptable solution that will markedly change perception of the need for an international investigation–the complete cessation of the siege.
I don’t have a problem with implementing security arrangements that will guarantee that armaments and materials that could be used to make weapons are not imported into Gaza. But short of this, there must be a return to normal life there. Full stop. Anything short of this is a non-starter.
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- Gaza flotilla: William Hague calls for ‘international’ inquiry (telegraph.co.uk)
- UN chief proposes panel on Gaza raid (cbc.ca)