Trimble on Gaza flotilla inquiry

By staff

Israel had rejected UN demands for an independent international inquiry into its attack on an aid flotilla, but appointed two foreign observers to its domestic committee.

Former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble and Canadian judge Ken Watkin will oversee the Israeli investigation, although they have no voting rights. It will be headed by former Israeli supreme court judge Yaakov Tirkel.

The inquiry flies in the face of UN demands for an international inquiry, but the White House supported its ally, arguing that the Israeli investigation met the standards of a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation”.

It will look into why nine activists were shot, many of them in the face or the back, when Israeli Defense Forces launched a strike on the boats, which planned to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza to deliver aid.

The blockade itself is now front-and-centre of international efforts in the aftermath of the attack.

The British line on the blockade noticeably hardened when news of the flotilla attack emerged. Spain, current holder of the EU presidency, will demand a vigorous approach to convincing Israel to drop the tactic, with support from the UK, France and Italy.

It also appeared that Tony Blair’s work as Middle East envoy to the quartet may be starting to pay dividends.

The former British prime minister has been lobbying for the current list of permitted items to enter Gaza to be replaced with a list of banned items, so that imports can be based on the assumption that items are legitimate unless stated otherwise.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who held three meetings with Mr Blair over the last week, implied to his Cabinet that that approach would prevail.

“The principle guiding our policy is clear: to prevent war material from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and non-contraband goods,” he told his Cabinet.