JERUSALEM – Israel has appointed a commission to investigate the events of the May 31 Turkish flotilla: Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Horev, a former officer of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) General Staff and a former president of the Technion; Professor Shabtai Rosen, an expert on international law; and the committee’s chairman, retired Judge Yaakov Turkel.
The mandate of the commission will also address how rumors were promulgated to promote the false notion of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said yesterday that Israel’s decision to establish an investigative committee was an important step forward and that Israel possessed both the capabilities and institutions to conduct a credible and transparent inquiry.
While the United States welcomed the committee, Turkey condemned it, saying that an international committee, with observers from both Israel and Turkey, and under UN scrutiny, should be formed instead.
Israel is indeed concerned that the international community may not be satisfied with the Turkish committee and may demand the establishment of another committee along the lines of the Goldstone commission. Several Israeli ministers also feel that the government is avoiding responsibility in the affair. “The committee is not a replacement for internal investigations in the military or political echelon,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon in a cabinet meeting. He added, “We need to know how to provide a better response to the threats of other flotillas as well, and also improve the decision-making process in other incidents that we will have to deal with.”
Both Iran and Hezbollah are planning to send flotillas of their own to Gaza.
The Iranian Red Crescent, which serves not only humanitarian purposes but also, according to a CIA report, is used for covert intelligence work by Iran, has organized an aid flotilla to Gaza. The ship that they are using has been blacklisted by the U.S. administration. One of the organizers said, “We do not fear Israel’s threats. At most, they will confiscate the ship or we will die as shahids [Arabic meaning witnesses].”
The deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Salami, made clear that a military escort for the flotilla was not on the table. Political sources in Israel said that efforts are underway via Egypt to prevent the ship from entering the Mediterranean Sea.
Hezbollah is sending a flotilla as well. One of its tactics will be to send a ship whose passengers are women. In terms of international law, these flotillas will be regarded differently from the Turkish one, which set sail from a friendly country, while the vessels in question will be setting sail from ports in Iran and Lebanon, which are enemy states.
Political sources told Israel Radio that despite discussions concerning relief measures to the Gaza siege, there was no change in policy towards ships making their way to Gaza. They said that every flotilla would be stopped and that all boats, including those from Iran, would not be allowed to approach the Gaza Strip.