Israel rejects UN proposal for joint Gaza flotilla probe with U.S. and Turkey
Prime Minister Netanyahu tells Ban Ki-moon: Investigation of the facts must be carried out responsibly and objectively.
Israel rejected on Sunday a proposal by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an international investigation into its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship and said it had the right to launch its own inquiry.
"We are rejecting an international commission. We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place," Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, said on the U.S. TV program "Fox News Sunday".
The UN chief had suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by formerNew Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey, Israel and the United States, an Israeli official said earlier in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu discussed the proposal for a multinational panel with Ban in a telephone call on Saturday but told cabinet ministers from his right-wing Likud party on Sunday that Israel was exploring other options, political sources said.
"I told [Ban] that the investigation of the facts must be carried out responsibly and objectively," Netanyahu told ministers. "We need to consider the issue carefully and level-headedly, while maintaining Israel's national interests as well as those of the Israel Defense Forces."
The prime minister said he told Ban that some of the passengers aboard the stormed the Mavi Marmara were members of an extremist terror-backing Turkish organization. He stressed that any investigation into the event should determine who organized these extremists, who funded them and supplied them with equipment, and how they ended up on the ship.
Netanyahu also discussed the Israeli blockade on Gaza, saying that discussions surrounding the easing of the blockade had begun before the flotilla ever set sail.
"Our desire is to facilitate the transfer of civilian and humanitarian goods to the civilian population, while preventing the transfer of weapons and warfare materials." He added that "the provocative flotilla will not stop us from discussing this, and we are considering proposals on the topic made by friendly nations."
The prime minister further told the cabinet that he spoke with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden over the weekend as well as the prime ministers of Greece and Bulgaria.
Nine Turks were killed on Monday in the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a six-vessel convoy that set out to challenge an Israeli-led blockade.
Israel has said its troops used lethal force in self-defense after they were set upon by pro-Palestinian activists wielding clubs and knives.
Israeli leaders have spoken publicly about setting up an internal investigation with foreign observers into the interception of the Turkish-flagged ship off the coast of Gaza, an enclave run by Hamas Islamists who oppose Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's peace efforts with Israel.
"Israel is a democratic nation. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board," Oren said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking on CNN, said Ankara would insist on an independent commission and suggested that Israel's rejection of an international inquiry showed it wanted to cover up the facts of the raid.
"We want to know the facts. If Israel rejects this, it means it is also another proof of their guilt. They are not self-confident to face the facts," he said.
Turkey's relations with Israel, once a close ally, have soured badly since the deadly raid.
Israel's navy boarded another ship carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza on Saturday. Its interception of the Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie ended without violence following diplomatic efforts to avoid bloodshed.
"I want to pay tribute to the crew of the Rachel Corrie for demonstrating in no uncertain terms their peaceful intentions," Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told Irish public radio RTE. "We of course communicated that relentlessly to the Israeli authorities."
An Israeli official said Israel wanted to establish whether the Turkish government had sponsored the Mavi Marmara, where the strength of the resistance to the boarding party appeared to have caught the Israeli military off guard. Israel has said seven of its troops were wounded.