Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gaza flotilla raid: Israel to co-operate with UN inquiry.

Well, I didn't see this coming:

Israel today agreed to co-operate with a UN investigation into the lethal attack on a flotilla of ships attempting to break the blockade of Gaza, saying it had nothing to hide.

Members of Binyamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet, known as the group of seven, voted to take part in the inquiry after two months of sustained international pressure since the raid in international waters, when nine Turkish activists were killed.

In a statement, Netanyahu said: "Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing."

The government had fiercely resisted demands for an independent international inquiry, establishing three internal investigations to head off pressure from the UN, Europe and Turkey.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said Israel's agreement to participate in the inquiry he is setting up was an "unprecedented development".

It is the first time Israel has agreed to take part in a UN inquiry into actions involving the country's military. Israel refused to co-operate with a previous UN inquiry, led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone, into its three-week war in Gaza in 2008-9. That inquiry's findings were highly damning of Israeli actions.

I have no idea why the Israelis have suddenly bowed to international pressure, but the fact that they have is to be welcomed. I am reading that the Israelis are anxious not to have a repeat of the Goldstone report, which Israel thinks was particularly harsh because she decided not to co-operate with the report.

"This decision is important," said Gidi Grinstein, of the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based thinktank. "Israeli policy for many years has been a 'closed tent' approach. Often those critical of Israeli policy have been marginalised. [This decision] reflects a deeper understanding of the requirement to engage with organisations that may be critical of Israeli policy."

I'm not sure the Goldstone report would have been any less harsh had the Israelis participated; after all, Israel had clearly committed war crimes. But the fact that the Israelis are now opening themselves to an international inquiry is certainly a vast improvement on what went before.

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