The government yesterday authorized the creation of an independent committee to examine the events surrounding the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla last month. Unfortunately, neither the committee's membership nor its authority is suited to meet the challenges posed by the affair.
The committee should have been asked to examine the facts and hold responsible those who caused the incident to end as it it did, thereby allowing Israelis and their government to implement the lessons that need to be learned. Instead, the cabinet created a panel aimed at appeasing the world, in particular the United States. Its authority is too limited to conduct a real investigation, and its makeup raises the suspicion that it is designed more as a public-relations tool than to properly examine the events and reveal the responsible parties.
A panel that is not a state commission of inquiry will be unable to bring justice to bear on those found responsible for the operation's failings. And no matter how esteemed the committee members may be, all have for decades been away from events in both the military and government, and will thus not be able to reach the necessary conclusions. Committee chairman Jacob Turkel's observation ahead of his appointment that certain people must not be found at fault raises a question mark over whether he was selected precisely because of that remark.
Stopping the flotilla has already caused Israel immense political damage. Stopping a real investigation by appointing a committee with such limited powers is liable to lead to further damage not only to Israel's image abroad, but also to its capacity to avoid similar imbroglios in the future. It is hard to believe that the newly appointed committee, even though it includes two international observers, will convince the world that Israel is seriously investigating the raid's operational failures.
The government had an opportunity to try to control the damage it brought on itself by conducting an audacious and comprehensive investigation. Yesterday the government missed that opportunity. The strange hybrid that emerged instead - both its puzzling membership and weak mandate - bodes ill for Israel. A committee whose makeup and authority are perceived as predetermined will be unable to satisfy international leaders and their constituencies abroad who demanded the inquiry in the first place. It would therefore have been better if the Turkel committee had never been born, sparing us the deceptive appearance of a real investigation.