Turkel Refused to Add Woman to Gaza Flotilla Probe, State Claims

State says it will not add a woman to the Gaza flotilla probe panel, citing Jacob Turkel's view that expanding it at this point might hurt its work.

Jacob Turkel, the head of Israel's probe into the IDF raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May, opposes adding one or more women to the commission panel, the state told the High Court of Justice on Thursday.

A day earlier, the court had instructed the state to review its stance regarding the inclusion of a woman in the commission – which currently consists of three Israelis and two international observers, all men.

Emil Salman

On Thursday, the state responded to the court, saying that its stance would not change, citing Turkel's position that the addition of a new member to the panel at this point would not contribute to the panel's work.

"After the panel has already heard testimony from the prime minister, defense minister, chief of staff, the chairman [Turkel] stands by his view that adding one or more new members to the panel would not contribute to the work of the panel and might even hurt it," the state's response said. "In light of the international developments on this matter – particularly the creation of an international UN probe – it is particularly necessary that the panel finish its work as quickly as possible."

Nine activists were killed in the May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, when violence erupted as Israel Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the flotilla. Both Israel and the United Nations are conducting investigations into the incident.

On Wednesday, High Court judges Miriam Naor, Uzi Vogelman and Salim Joubran hinted that they may order the inclusion of a woman on the panel, even at the expense of one of the men that currently make up the commission.

Last week, a Supreme Court judge ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the state and the Turkel Commission to expand the panel of the public inquiry to include a representative of the female population, as required by law.

The order came in response to a petition last month by the organizations "Women Lawyers for Social Justice" and "Women Power," following a government decision to expand the commission to include another two men. Before submitting the petition, "Women Lawyers for Social Justice" had requested in vain for the panel to include a woman.

Earlier this week, the state told court that before the makeup of the panel had been decided, it had invited three women who are experts in international law to join, but each had refused. The state also claimed that it had subsequently tried to recruit women panel members once the commission had been formed, but was equally frustrated.