Turkey Says Flotilla Committee 'Tramples All Int'l Principles'

PM Netanyahu claims Israel is accused of war crimes every time it must defend itself, says soldiers acted to protect themselves.

Turkey said yesterday it was "appalled and dismayed" at the Turkel commitee's findings on Israel's commando raid on a Turkish ship that sought to break the Gaza blockade last spring.

Turkey said its own panel's report into the May 31 incident, which it submitted to a UN inquiry in September, had found that Israel's blockade on the territory and "attack against the humanitarian aid convoy" had violated international law. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the raid.

"Our Commission is surprised, appalled and dismayed that the national inquiry process in Israel has resulted in the exoneration of the Israeli armed forces, despite all the facts that have also been confirmed by the International Fact-Finding Mission," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Israel's attack against the humanitarian aid convoy, which violated both wartime and peacetime international law, has also trampled all international principles, rules and norms with the manner in which it was conducted."

Jacob Turkel, Netanyahu - Government Press Office - Jan. 23, 2010
Government Press Office

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Israel's decision to make the panel's findings public before submitting them to the United Nations was "unconstructive." Because of that, it had decided to make public its own inquiry.

PM pleased

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed satisfaction with the Turkel committee's conclusion that Israel had acted in accordance with international law.

"Our soldiers acted to protect themselves and to protect their country," ,Netanyahu said in a statement. This was not only their right but their obligation, and the State of Israel stands behind them, Netanyahu said.

He said Israel is accused of war crimes every time it must defend itself, and Israeli forces acted with restraint and courage on the ship, the Mavi Marmara. He said the Turkel committee's findings also clearly showed the legality of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement the report "will be taken into consideration and appropriate findings will be implemented."

Israeli MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ), who was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara during the raid, has been sharply criticized for taking part in the protest. She rejected the committee's findings, calling them biased. She said the findings were based on statements by Israeli political and military officials who had decided "to attack and kill."

She said the committee had limited authority and totally ignored the killing of the nine Turkish activists. "The report cannot cleanse Israel's image as a serial offender of international law," she said. Zuabi called the Turkel committee "an open forum for coarse propaganda" that gave a platform to Israeli political and military officials "to speak without interference or objection for most of the sessions."

Lubna Masarwa of the Free Gaza movement, who was also aboard the Mavi Marmara, said the commitee's findings were expected since the panel received its mandate from the Israeli government. "A government cannot investigate and judge itself," she said.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima ), who chairs the State Control Committee, said the Turkel committee did not address at all the prime minister and defense minister's decision-making process before the incident.

Nor did it deal with preparations for the flotilla's arrival or the serious intelligence failure over what could be expected in confronting the flotilla, he said.

He also said the panel did not address what he termed the failure of Israeli diplomacy to explain the incident. He said these issues were currently being investigated by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.