Categorized | Israel & Mideast

Israel commission hears Netanyahu in Gaza Flotilla inquiry

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JERUSALEM (WJC) — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again defended the raid by Israel’s Navy on the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’ on 31 May 2010, during which nine Turkish activists on board the ‘Marmara’ were killed.

Netanyahu told the Turkel Commission – a panel investigating raid – that Israel’s actions were justified. The flotilla was trying to break an Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Netanyahu said he was sure the Israeli panel investigating the raid would find that military forces had acted according to international law.

“The appearance of the prime minister of Israel before this commission today is the best proof of the standards according to which Israeli democracy operates,” Netanyahu stated.

He defended the Israeli sea blockade against Gaza: “From the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been raining thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar bombs on the state of Israel, striking at our communities and citizens … Today, Hamas is stockpiling weapons that can reach Tel Aviv and other distant parts of Israel. As part of the effort to prevent weapons entering the Gaza Strip, my government has continued the naval blockade policy that was imposed by the previous government during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, and this pursuant to the limitation and oversight on commercial traffic over the land crossings that were imposed in September 2007.”

Netanyahu criticized Turkey’s role in this matter. “Despite our continuous diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the ‘Marmara’ to break the naval blockade. All our proposals to route the ships’ cargo for a security vetting in Ashdod, and later for transfer through the land crossings to Gaza, were to no avail. Nor did we hear any public message from the Turkish government aimed at calming the excitability of the activists aboard the ship. It appears that the Turkish government did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel, something that clashed with its interests, and certainly not something that would warrant applying effective pressure on the IHH activists,” he declared.

The prime minister is the first of several high-level officials set to appear before the panel, which includes five Israeli members as well as two international observers.  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is also expected to testify.

The United Nations is due to begin its own inquiry into the raid on Tuesday.  That panel will be led by former New Zealand leader Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and will include one Israeli and one Turkish member.

Israel says its forces acted in self-defense after they were attacked by the Turkish activists wielding clubs and knives. The IDF held its own investigation and defended the use of force, whilst acknowledging that mistakes were made in the planning stages.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

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