Stop Avoiding the Investigation

The flotilla affair still requires a thorough examination because the killing of Turkish civilians caused Israel tremendous damage abroad

Paragraph 1 of the Investigation Committees Law sets the terms for establishing a state commission of inquiry. It says the government is authorized to set up a committee to investigate "a matter of vital importance to the public at a given time that requires clarification." It is hard to think of an event or issue that fits that description better than the decision-making processes before the raid on the Turkish flotilla headed for Gaza last week.

The flotilla affair still requires a thorough examination because the killing of Turkish civilians caused Israel tremendous damage abroad, portrayed the state as a law-breaking hoodlum and increased tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis. As more details come to light, the impression grows that the decisions to continue the Gaza blockade, confront Turkey and send naval commandos to intercept the ships were made offhandedly, without thorough consideration of the possible consequences.

Only a state commission of inquiry, whose members would be appointed by the Supreme Court, can ensure a thorough clarification of the policy and its consequences, without its members having to fear the people in power. Only such a body would have the authority and public standing to carry out a deep and fair probe that would not be taken for an attempt to whitewash the matter or pass the buck from the political leaders to the military.

But the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman, who are chiefly responsible for our policy on Gaza and decisions regarding the flotilla, is closing its eyes and refusing to see the incident as "a matter of vital importance to the public."

Instead of agreeing to a proper investigation, the politicians are hiding behind flimsy excuses. Netanyahu and Barak are trying to avoid a probe into their actions: They are talking about an internal inquiry by the Israel Defense Forces, which by nature involves only the soldiers and their commanders and not the politicians. Such an inquiry would involve a report to justify the action itself and the force Israel used against the flotilla. This would serve as a public-relations exercise rather than an instrument for finding out the truth and fixing the problems.

Barak has said that "the Chinese don't investigate either." It is interesting that this regime evokes the defense minister and Labor chairman's envy. He has forgotten that in a democracy, the government is accountable to the public and its decisions must be transparent. In crises like the flotilla affair, the only way to achieve this accountability and transparency is to set up a state commission of inquiry.