The Israeli cabinet on Monday unanimously approved plans for an internal probe into the May 31 Israeli raid on several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website; BBC profile] expressed his hope that the probe would show that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] acted appropriately. During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu explained the purpose of the probe [statement], stating:
Two main principles guided us in proposing the establishment of the commission. First is maintaining IDF soldiers' freedom of action and the credibility of the IDF investigation. ... The second principle that guided us is providing a credible and convincing response to the responsible countries in the international community about the events, especially in the context of international law. I am convinced that the Commission's uncovering of the facts will prove that the goals and actions of the State of Israel and the IDF were appropriate defensive actions in accordance with the highest international standards.To head the probe, Netanyahu on Sunday appointed [JURIST report] former Israeli Supreme Court [official website] Justice Yakov Tirkel, along with Shabbtai Rosen, an international law professor and former Israeli diplomat, and retired Major General Amos Horev, a former Israeli army leader. Due to the "exceptional circumstances" of the events in question, the commission will also be overseen by two international observers, Nobel Prize laureate David Trimble and former Canadian military prosecutor Ken Watkin, to ensure the impartiality of the inquiry. The internal probe fails to meet the UN proposal for an international investigation, but was decided upon after deliberations with the US. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the independent public commission [press release] an "important step" and said the inquiry meets the "standards of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation."
The commission will investigate the events that took place in the early hours of May 31, when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to the Palestinian territory of Gaza and produce a published report of its conclusions The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the shooting deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists - eight Turks and one American. Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] reiterated the importance of an international component [JURIST report] in the investigation into the raid. Ban's original proposal to establish an investigatory panel comprised of representatives from Israel, Turkey, and other unnamed countries, was rejected by Israeli officials [JURIST report]. Israeli officials have insisted that Israel has the ability and the right to resolve matters through an internal investigation and does not require international oversight. Also last week, the IDF launched an internal investigation [JURIST report] into the flotilla attack. The investigatory unit will study the outcomes of the incident, "establish lessons," and present its findings by July 4. Netanyahu and the nation's seven senior ministers also decided to establish a panel of jurists [Haaretz report] to investigate the attack. The panel's inquiry will be independent from the IDF investigation. The Turkish flotilla on which the violence occurred was one of six organized by the Free Gaza Movement [advocacy website] to carry protesters and humanitarian supplies to the isolated Palestinian enclave. The Gaza naval blockade began in 2007 after Hamas forcibly expelled their chief rival, Fatah [CFR backgrounders] from Gaza.