Gaza flotilla probe
From left, David Trimble and Ken Watkin with committee head Jacob Turkel. Photo by GPO
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The government on Tuesday looked set to widen the scope of an inquiry into Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, after a judge leading the probe threatened to resign unless his powers were increased.

Earlier this week, retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel approached Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, citing legal grounds to support a demand to extend his remit.

According to Turkel, paragraphs 8 and 8a of the Basic Government Law grant an independent committee of inquiry the right to conduct a full judicial investigation, including the authority to subpoena any witnesses or evidence it requires and to take testimony under oath.

By late Tuesday, there were indications that the government would bow to Turkel's demand. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to have discussed the issue with Neeman, as well as with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – with all four agreeing that Netanyahu should should formally consider the request.

The debate in government follows a petition handed to the Supreme Court this week by Gush Shalom, a campaign group, also demanding a broadening of the inquiry.

On Tuesday, state prosecutors, acting at Turkel's request, asked the court to delay its ruling on the petition for 10 days in the expectation that a decision at the political level would redraw the parameters of the inquest.

Turkel believes his commission should be granted the same rights as the powerful Winograd panel that investigated the Second Lebanon War, which had a much broader authority.

The Turkel commission held its first official meeting on Monday, nearly one month after the Israel Navy's May 31 raid on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead and a number of navy commandos wounded.

The internal investigation is being monitored by two foreign observers – Lord David Trimble of Ireland and Canada's former judge advocate general Ken Watkin.

Turkel expressed hope on Monday that his committee would complete its duty fast, and that the prime minister, defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff would shortly be summoned to testify before the committee.

The committee members, including Shabtai Rosenne, a professor of international law, and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Horev, met to create panel guidelines and a schedule for hearing witness testimony, and determine the extent to which the observers will participate in the hearings.

Most of the committee hearings will be open to the public and the media, though there will also be some closed meetings in which the panel will hear sensitive information that could affect Israel's security or foreign affairs.

The Turkel committee was appointed by the cabinet earlier this month to investigate the naval raid and its adherence to international law.

The committee will also examine the security-related reasons for Israel's imposition of a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which the flotilla was launched to protest, and the conduct of Turkey and the flotilla organizers.
The judge leading Israel's internal probe into a deadly navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has threatened to resign unless the government agrees to widen the scope of his inquiry.

Retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel approached Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman this week, citing legal grounds to support a demand to extend his remit.

According to Turkel, paragraphs 8 and 8a of the Basic Government Law grant an independent committee of inquiry the right to conduct a full judicial inquiry, including the authority to subpoena any witnesses or evidence it requires.

Ne'eman apparently promised to raise the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held discussions on the matter over the last few days with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Turkel belives his commission should be granted the same rights as the powerful Winograd panel that investigated the Second Lebanon War.

That committee was given a mandate similar to a state commission at inception and as such was given a much broader scope of authority, though its recommendations did not hold the same legal weight as an official panel appointed by Supreme Court Justices.

"The committee has no intention of dealing with anything other than the work we have been charged to do by the Israeli government," said committee spokesman, Ofer Leffler.

Turkel made his request following a petition submitted by the Gush Shalom watchdog to expand the authority of the committee investigating the events of the flotilla raid.

The Turkel commission held its first official meeting on Monday, nearly one month after the Israel Navy's May 31 raid on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead and a number of navy commandos wounded.

The internal investigation is being monitored by two foreign observers – Lord David Trimble of Ireland and Canada's former judge advocate general Ken Watkin.

Turkel expressed hope on Monday that his committee would complete its duty fast, and that the prime minister, defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff would shortly be summoned to testify before the committee.

The committee members, including Shabtai Rosenne, a professor of international law, and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Horev, met to create panel guidelines and a schedule for hearing witness testimony, and determine the extent to which the observers will participate in the hearings.

Most of the committee hearings will be open to the public and the media, though there will also be some closed meetings in which the panel will hear sensitive information that could affect Israel's security or foreign affairs.

The Turkel committee was appointed by the cabinet earlier this month to investigate the naval raid and its adherence to international law.

The committee will also examine the security-related reasons for Israel's imposition of a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which the flotilla was launched to protest, and the conduct of Turkey and the flotilla organizers.