Top Israeli officials are rejecting calls for an international investigation, insisting that the same military that carried out the operation being labeled a “massacre” by world leaders is capable of conducting a credible review. Given its past performance on internal reviews and the violation of international law, world leaders from nearly every nation demanded an independent and transparent investigation into Israel’s actions.
Israel says the commandos used force, killing nine people, only after activists attacked them with knives, crowbars and clubs, as well as two pistols grabbed from raiders. Numerous reports contradict Israel’s claim, and reports of widespread efforts by Israeli authorities to cover up the operation, including the confiscation cell phones and recording devices from civilians on the Flotilla, indicate the Jewish state is determined to forcefully prove it did no wrong. Eyewitness accounts implicate Israel of opening fire on unarmed civilians prior to the Israeli commandos setting foot on the Freedom Flotillas.
The international outrage over the deaths on board the flotilla’s lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, has sparked a wave of protests across the diplomatic world and condemnations by a sheaf of countries. South Africa became the latest country to recall its ambassador to Israel, although it stressed it has no intention of expelling the Israeli ambassador or cutting diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
The investigation “should be one which can gain credibility and support from the parties concerned,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “This is a very sensitive and even difficult, therefore, I am still in the process of these consultations. I will try to make it as impartial, as credible, as transparent as possible.”
Israel on Thursday rejected calls from the United Nations and others for an international investigation of its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla but left the door open to foreign involvement.
Government spokesman Mark Regev and another senior official in the prime minister’s office said there would be no separate international investigation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday labeled the criticism “hypocrisy”.
“This was not the ‘Love Boat,’” Netanyahu said in an address to the nation. “It was a hate boat.”
Israel has refused to cooperate with previous international probes, most recently the U.N. investigation into Israel’s 2009 war in the Gaza Strip that concluded that both the Israelis and Hamas militants, who control Gaza, committed war crimes.
Israel says the commission that ordered the probe has a record of anti-Israel conduct, and has rejected the investigation as fundamentally flawed.
In a strongly worded statement, the Arab League called the raid “state piracy and terrorism” and said it threatened regional stability and security. Arab foreign ministers also urged the U.N. Security Council to force Israel to lift the blockade.
Earlier this week, the 15-nation U.N Security Council called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards” but stopped short of calling for an independent international investigation.
The U.S., as a member of the council, supported that statement. Washington’s special Mideast envoy, who is in the region to mediate another round of indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians, said the raid “underscores the need to make progress in negotiations to lead to a two-state solution.”
“The tragedy of last week can not be allowed to spiral out of control and undermine the limited but real progress that has been made,” envoy George Mitchell said Thursday at an investment conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The activists on the flotilla want to end Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed after the militant Hamas group violently seized power in the territory three years ago. Israel says the blockade is meant to keep weapons out of Gaza and to put pressure on its Hamas rulers to moderate. But weapons and other goods continue to reach Gaza through underground tunnels with Egypt and Gazans blame Israel, not Hamas, for their hardship.
The activists already have another small Gaza-bound ship in the Mediterranean, which expects to arrive in the region early next week, and say they are organizing a new flotilla of at least three aid ships to try to breach the blockade in early fall.