The government's efforts to avoid a thorough and credible investigation of the flotilla affair seem more and more like a farce. The conclusions of an ostensible probe are intended to justify retroactively the decision to blockade Gaza, to forcibly stop the Turkish aid flotilla in international waters and to use deadly force on the deck of the Mavi Marmara.
To make the costume seem credible, the Prime Minister's Bureau asked a retired Supreme Court justice, Yaakov Tirkel, to chair the committee. Alongside him will sit foreign observers in order to legitimize the conclusions in international public opinion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even pledged to testify before the committee, together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, other ministers and the chief of staff, so "the truth will come out."
The truth that Netanyahu wishes to bring out involves the identity of the flotilla's organizers, its sources of funding and the knives and rods that were brought aboard. He does not intend to probe the decision-making process that preceded the takeover of the ship and the shortcomings that were uncovered. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, it will be enough for television channels to broadcast footage of dark-suited jurists, and politicians addressing them, to present the semblance of an "examination."
But Netanyahu's panel will have no powers, not even those of a government probe, and its proposed chairman does not believe in such a panel. In an interview to Army Radio, Tirkel said there is no choice but to establish a state committee of inquiry. He opposed bringing in foreign observers and made clear that he is not a devotee of drawing conclusions about individuals and dismissing those responsible for failures. When a Haaretz reporter confronted Tirkel about these remarks, the former justice evaded the question saying, "I don't remember what I said."
The disagreements that erupted at the week's end between Netanyahu and his deputy, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, over the question of whether Ya'alon was updated in time about the action underscored the suspicion of serious faults in the decision-making process with regard to the flotilla. Instead of being part of the whitewash, Tirkel, whose dodging of his earlier statements does him no honor, should return his mandate to the prime minister and demand that Netanyahu establish a government committee of inquiry with real powers. The public, as Netanyahu said, has a right to know the truth.