JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a multinational investigation of Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, an Israeli official said on Sunday.
Ban has suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey — under whose flag the ship sailed — Israel and the United States, said the official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
The Israeli leader discussed the proposal with Ban on Saturday and planned to convene senior cabinet ministers on Sunday to decide whether Israel would take part, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Israeli political sources, speaking before the ministerial meeting but after Netanyahu briefed cabinet members from his Likud party, said Israel was exploring other options for an inquiry into Monday’s operation.
Israeli leaders have spoken publicly about setting up an internal Israeli investigation with foreign observers into the interception of the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, part of a six-ship convoy that challenged the Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip, an enclave run by Hamas Islamists.
Ban also discussed with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erodogan “options for moving forward with the investigation called for by the Security Council,” the U.N. said on its website, referring to the Council’s call for an impartial inquiry.
Israel’s navy boarded another ship carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza on Saturday. Its interception of the Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie ended without violence following diplomatic efforts to avoid bloodshed.
“I want to pay tribute to the crew of the Rachel Corrie for demonstrating in no uncertain terms their peaceful intentions,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told Irish public radio RTE. “We of course communicated that relentlessly to the Israeli authorities.”
Turkey’s relations with Israel, once a close ally, have soured badly since the deadly raid. The Israeli official said there was hope that ties could be mended if Israel and Turkey cooperated in a committee investigating the incident.
The official said Israel also wanted to establish whether the Turkish government sponsored the Mavi Marmara, where activists used clubs and a knife to attack the marines — resistance that appeared to catch Israeli military planners off guard. Israel has said seven of its troops were wounded.
Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting that a smaller group of “violent extremists” had boarded the ship separately with the intention of clashing with troops.
“According to information we now have, this group boarded separately, from a different city, organized separately, was equipped separately …. and without passing the same inspection as the others,” he said.
Together with Egypt, Israel tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas Islamists took over the coastal territory in 2007 in fighting with forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
World pressure has mounted on Israel to lift the blockade which the U.N. said has caused a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and hampers efforts to rebuild homes and infrastructure destroyed in a 2009 war. Israel says its frequent transfer of basic goods to the territory has staved off any such crisis.