U.N. Leader Criticizes Israeli Plan for Inquiry

UNITED NATIONS — The panel announced by Israel to investigate the deadly assault on a flotilla seeking to run the Gaza blockade lacks adequate international weight to make the panel credible, the United Nations secretary general said Friday.

Although Israel gave two foreigners observer status on the panel, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that most countries he had consulted agreed that “it is not sufficient enough to have international credibility.”

Mr. Ban also condemned the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip. Although he noted that Israel announced a slight easing of the blockade this week, Mr. Ban said a “fundamental change” was needed in its Gaza policy. “Much more is required to really meet the needs of the people,” he said at a news conference.

To investigate the flotilla, Mr. Ban had proposed establishing a four- or five-member independent panel, with one representative each from Israel and Turkey, to be led by Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister. Turkey accepted the proposal while Israel did not, but Mr. Ban said he was continuing to discuss his plan with the Israeli government, pressing for the idea that the two inquiries could complement each other.

“While I believe that they have the capacity to carry on their domestic investigations, at the same time this investigation should have international credibility,” Mr. Ban said.

There would be no point in proceeding with a neutral panel if Israel remained opposed, he added, saying, “Without full cooperation, it would be extremely difficult to have a thorough and credible investigation.” He said he remained committed to trying to fulfill the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.

Also Friday, the Israeli Mission to the United Nations released a letter that its ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, had sent to Mr. Ban and to the Security Council, urging the international community to prevent the sailing of another Gaza flotilla forming in Lebanon. Given that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, which is at war with Israel, has called on Lebanese citizens to help break the blockade, Ms. Shalev wrote, the flotilla might be used to try to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

“Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the existing naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip,” Ms. Shalev wrote.

The Israeli commandos who intercepted the six-boat Turkish flotilla in international waters last month clashed with the activists aboard the largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara. Nine activists were killed.


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