Aharon Leshno Yaar, AP
Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel's UN envoy in Geneva Photo by AP
Text size

Israel does not intend to cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council's investigation into Israel's interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla at the end of May. The raid resulted in nine deaths.

According to a senior Israeli official, the sense at the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office is that cooperating with the investigative committee would only confer legitimacy upon the UNHRC, which has consistently acted against Israel.

"This is an unnecessary committee," the official said, "which is the product of an obsession with Israel."

The decision not to cooperate with the UN committee has not been announced officially, but is expected to be made this week. It is believed it will be accompanied, however, by a decision to cooperate with a separate flotilla committee acting on behalf UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The secretary general's team is expected to examine the conclusions of Israel's Turkel Committee as well as the results of a Turkish investigation into the flotilla incident.

Although the decision by the Human Rights Council to look into the case was made two months ago, the makeup of its investigative panel was only announced Friday. The committee will consist of Desmond de Silva of Britain, the former chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunal on events in the African country of Sierra Leone; International Criminal Court judge Karl Hudson-Phillips of Trinidad; and Mary Shanthi Dairiam of Malaysia, a women's rights activist.

The three-member panel is to submit its conclusions by mid-September, before which it is expected to try and visit Israel, Gaza and Turkey. In light of Jerusalem's expected decision not to cooperate with the panel, it is not thought the members will be allowed into Israel.

Over the weekend, Israel prepared for a possible attempt by another flotilla, this time from Lebanon, to run the Gaza naval blockade. Syria and Hezbollah are thought to be organizing the flotilla in an effort to divert international attention from the imminent release of conclusions from an investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak sent a message to Lebanon over the weekend demanding the government there stop the flotilla. The Lebanese government, however, vehemently denied that any such flotilla is in the offing.

The country's transportation minister, Ghazi al-Aridi, told the daily Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar he was unaware of any such plans. He said that if he did ever receive such a request, it would be considered based on applicable laws and regulations. Al-Aridi added that Lebanon supports the Palestinians, but is committed above all to observing international law.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to release the Mavi Marmara and two other Turkish ships that were part of the flotilla at the end of May and had been towed to port in Israel. Despite earlier demands that the ships' owners promise the vessels would not be used in future Gaza-bound flotillas, the three Israeli leaders decided to release the ships unconditionally.