Eyeing world opinion, Israel agrees to cooperate on UN Gaza flotilla inquiry
Israel's surprise announcement that it will cooperate with a United Nations investigation into the deadly May 31 Gaza flotilla raid signals the nation's assessment that it cannot keep alienating allies.
Israel announced Monday that it would cooperate with a United Nations investigation into the fatal Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla May 31. The decision marks the first time Israel – which routinely criticizes the UN as biased against the Jewish state – has participated in a UN inquiry into the actions of its defense forces.Skip to next paragraph
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The move, an about-face after rebutting intense international pressure for two months, signals Israel’s assessment that it cannot protect itself if it keeps alienating key allies, say Middle East security experts.
“There is concern in Israel right now that the country has … not been isolated this way since perhaps after Lebanon war in the 1980s. Our relations even with our friends have taken a hit, including the [European Union],” says Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst based in Tel Aviv, adding that Israel is aiming to improve one relationship in particular. “The address on [this announcement] has one recipient, and that’s Turkey.”
Long Israel’s sole Muslim ally, Turkey has become increasingly alienated from Israel over the past two years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan harshly criticized the Gaza war last year, and Turkish officials are said to have supported the “Freedom Flotilla” – including its flagship, the Mavi Marmara.
When Israeli naval forces clashed with the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, killing nine activists on board, Turkey threatened to cut off relations unless Israel apologized or agreed to take part in a UN investigation.
Israel: 'Nothing to hide'
In announcing Israel’s willingness to join such an investigation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today declared that Israel “has nothing to hide.”
“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 we are advancing,” Mr. Netanyahu said, after informing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon of Israel’s willingness to participate. Mr. Ban had delayed the anticipated investigation in hopes that Israel would cooperate.
"I sincerely hope that this will contribute to the peace process as well as improvement of relationship between Israel and Turkey," Ban said, adding that the deal was reached after two months of "intensive consultation with the leaders of Israel and Turkey."
The investigation will be done by a four-member panel co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and including a Turkish and an Israeli representative.
Israel had previously refused to cooperate with the UN-led Goldstone commission that resulted in a harsh, controversial report on Israel's actions during the 2009 Gaza war.