WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel does not want an international panel to investigate its commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship but is talking with Washington about how an inquiry of the incident should proceed, Israel’s U.S. ambassador said Sunday.
“We are rejecting an international commission,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place.”
Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed last week when Israeli troops boarded the ship carrying aid to Gaza. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had discussed his proposal for multinational investigation of the raid Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ban had suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Israel, the United States and Turkey, under whose flag the ship sailed, an official from Netanyahu’s office said earlier Sunday.
Netanyahu planned to convene senior Cabinet ministers on Sunday to decide whether Israel would take part, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Oren told Fox: “Israel is a democratic nation. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board.”
Israeli leaders have spoken publicly about having foreign observers for an Israeli investigation into Monday’s interception of the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, which was part of a six-vessel fleet.
Asked if an Israeli investigation would include foreign participation, Oren said, “This is an ongoing discussion in the Israeli government. But at the end of the day, Israel has the right, the duty, as a democracy to investigate any military activity.”
Ban also discussed with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erodogan “options for moving forward with the investigation called for by the Security Council,” the United Nations said on its website, referring to the council’s call for an impartial inquiry.
Israel’s navy boarded another ship carrying aid to Gaza on Saturday. Its interception of the MV Rachel Corrie ended without violence following diplomatic efforts to avoid bloodshed.
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said on ABC’s “This Week” it was in Israel’s “security and national defense interest to deal more effectively with the Gaza situation.”
Israel has every right to ensure weapons are not being smuggled into Gaza but there is still too much confusion about what goods humanitarian groups are allowed to bring in, he said.
“I think that what we need to do in the days ahead is put out a list of the things that cannot go in,” Kerry said.
Republican Senator John Cornyn accused the pro-Palestinian activists of “a premeditation provocation” that resulted in Israeli troops having to defend themselves.
“If the people organizing this flotilla had been committed to a peaceful activity as opposed to provocation, this would not have occurred and Israel would have been able to examine the contents of the flotilla and they would have been delivered to the people in Gaza who needed help,” Cornyn said on “This Week.”
Reporting by Philip Barbara and Doug Palmer, editing by Bill Trott