Gaza flotilla probe: IDF used excessive force but naval blockade legal
The final findings of the UN commission that investigated the events last May do not call for Israel to apologize; Israeli official: Turkish-Israeli reconciliation talks deadlocked.By Barak Ravid
The UN committee investigating the events of last May's Gaza flotilla, headed by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer, convened Wednesday in New York to conclude the report.
According to a political source in Jerusalem, the final findings of the Palmer Report show that the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza is legal and is in accordance with international law.
The report also sharply criticizes the Turkish government's behavior in its dealings with the committee. Palmer, an expert on international maritime law, added in the report that Israel’s Turkel commission that investigated the events was professional, independent and unbiased.
His findings on the Turkish committee were less favorable, with Palmer concluding that the Turkish investigation was politically influenced and its work was not professional or independent.
On Thursday, the Palmer Committee will present its findings to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, yet it remains unclear if it will be made public. Turkey is pressuring the UN to delay that release of the investigation's findings, but the report is likely to be made public in the coming days.
The Palmer Committee also criticizes the IHH organization that organized the Gaza flotilla as well as its ties to the Turkish government, suggesting Turkey did not do enough to stop the flotilla.
Israel does not come out of the report unscathed, with the committee concluding that based on testimony given by passengers, the Israeli naval commandos used excessive force. Israel claimed the soldiers acted out of self defense, thereby justifying the use of force.
According to the final draft of the probe, Israel is not asked to apologize to Turkey, but the report does recommend it expresses regret over the casualties. The Palmer Report also doesn't ask Israel to pay compensation, but proposes Israel transfer money to a specially-created humanitarian fund.
Palmer says that although international law permits the interception of ships outside territorial waters, Israel should have taken control of the flotilla when the ships were closer to the limit of the naval blockade – 20 miles off the coast. Israel responded by saying that its interception of the flotilla so far from the coast was due to military and tactical considerations, following the organizers' refusal to stop.
Meanwhile, the efforts to mend relations between Israel and Turkey have reached a deadlock yet again, said a senior political source in Jerusalem on Wednesday. According to the source, talks between Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Turkish senior officials Wednesday in New York ended without conclusive results, and each side remains unrelenting in its stance.
"There is no agreement and no breakthrough on the horizon," said the source. "Everything still depends on the (Turkish demand for an Israeli) apology. The report will be released soon and a compromise seems very unlikely."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the Turkish negotiation team not to back down from the demand for an official aplogy. Ya'alon told Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu that Israel will not apologize, but is willing to express sorrow for the flotilla's tragic results.
Over the past two weeks there have been three rounds of negotiations between Ya'alon and Sinirlioglu - two of them took place in Europe and one in New York. They all ended in deadlock.