Will the Turkel commission be enough?Here are some of the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to the creation of the Turkel commission - I have it on good source that this story has been verified.
The message Obama officials delivered was twofold. First, they wanted to make sure Israel appointed international members to the commission who were credible. William David Trimble from Northern Ireland and Ken Watkin, a former judge advocate general of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be on it.The Los Angeles Times reports that Israelis have 'mixed feelings' about the Turkel commission.
The other Obama message to the Israelis? Speed it up. They wanted Israel to get the commission members settled on and announced as much as a week before the Israelis were ready. The Israeli official said that the detailed and extensive consultations with the Obama people are why it took so long.
"Our sense was that they were hopeful this commission announcement would come speedily and get this issue off the agenda so we could put it behind us," the official said. "Now, nobody can complain that Israel hasn't established a committee with international representation."
The direct and pivotal involvement of Jones is telling because he is also the official widely suspected (but not confirmed) to have been the source of the reports that the White House was telling foreign leaders it planned to support a separate international investigation if one was initiated at the U.N.
That story, put out by Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and denied by the White House, caused significant angst inside the Israeli government and diplomatic sources said it could have been an attempt to put pressure on Israel to speed things up.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley spoke about Kristol's allegation Monday. He promised the U.S. would support the Israeli investigation but refused to forswear U.S. support of whatever U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon might propose in the coming weeks.
"We stand by Israel and we'll voice our strong views against any action that is one-sided or biased by any international organization," Crowley said. "I'm not aware that the secretary general has yet made any decisions on steps the UN might take. We'll listen to what the secretary general has in mind and make a judgment then."
That type of hedging is exactly what many Israel supporters, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are concerned about.
"AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action -- including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General -- which would isolate Israel," the group said in a statement.
They also point to the White House's statement Sunday on the commission, which they see as tepid because it included a terse warning to Israel along with word of support.
Going forward, there is still a lot of concern among Israelis about the prominent role Jones is playing in the shaping of the administration's Israel policy. The conventional wisdom is that Jones, along with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, are the ones inside the administration pushing for a harder line vis-à-vis Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, while Biden, the NSC's Dennis Ross, and to an extent Special Envoy George Mitchell are said to advocate a position more sensitive to Netanyahu's own political situation.
Relief stemmed from the hope that an Israeli-led commission, approved by the government Monday, will head off U.N. calls for an international inquiry into Israel's May 31 raid on an aid flotilla seeking to break its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation.The Times goes on to report that the government has been criticized because the commission does not - in the critics' view - have a high enough profile or enough independence. The main critic cited - Israel Radio's legal correspondent Moshe Negbi - is known to hold Leftist political views.
Anxiety persists, however, because recent inquiries into the military have led to political shake-ups and painful soul-searching.
[T]he five-member panel will have a narrow mandate. It is chiefly tasked with evaluating the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, imposed three years ago when the Islamic militant group Hamas established full control over the coastal strip, and whether the use of force during the raid was consistent with international practices. The commission also will look into the identity and motivations of activists aboard the ship, some of whom Israel has accused of having links to terrorist groups.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also criticized the commission.
The UN called on Israel to accede to demands for an international inquiry of the event surrounding the IDF raid of the Gaza flotilla Monday night, even as the Israeli Cabinet approved a committee to pursue an internal Israeli inquiry of the matter.I don't see the government agreeing to that. On the other hand, the bigger question is whether the Obama administration will back an Israeli refusal to play along with the UN. My guess is yes - half heartedly, but only until November.
"The Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] takes note of the Israeli announcement on their inquiry," UN spokesman Farhan Haq was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Meryl Yourish discusses the double standard to which Israel is once again being subjected here.