JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel hopes its decision to cooperate with a U.N. investigation into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla will improve relations with its once close ally Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said on Tuesday.
The choice to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, which was announced on Monday, is “primarily meant, to my knowledge, for Turkey and Israel to find a way to bring relations back to a better place,” Meridor told Israel Army Radio.
The May 31 storming of the Turkish-owned flotilla, which was trying to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, caused an international outcry after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American they said were violently resisting.
Turkey welcomed the establishment of the panel, comprised of two international members, one Turkish and one Israeli member, calling it “a right step in the right direction”.
Israel has yet to announce who it will appoint to the committee, which will be led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. The panel is due to begin work on Aug. 10 and submit its first progress report by mid-September.
Israel has set up its own civilian panel to examine the interception of the flotilla. A separate Israeli military investigation found operational errors in the raid but defended the use of force.
Until the raid, Turkey had been the Muslim power closest to the Jewish state – a friendship based on military cooperation and intelligence sharing.
However in leaked comments this week, Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak expressed concern that Turkey could share intelligence secrets with Iran, casting doubt on how much Israel trusts its once-stalwart ally in the aftermath of the deadly raid.