The Three Panels: Investigating the Flotilla Fiasco

Israel is trying to address the massive criticism it is facing over the flotilla fiasco by empowering not one, but three different investigative panels.

It’s not likely to work.

The military investigation, which was the first one empaneled, was intended to address internal criticism that the operation was poorly planned and executed. This is likely to be the most effective panel in terms of its own mandate, but it obviously won’t address international concerns.

The most recent announcement by the state comptroller is actually the most likely to come up with something serious.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss

Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is planning to look into the government’s decision-making process, something which really does need attention. This was initiated by Lindenstrauss himself, and as such is the most likely to yield credible results.

But the comptroller’s investigation will be limited and will not cover the military’s “the tactical or operational aspects of the raid,” nor the legal aspects that the public commission is tasked with.

The main panel, headed by retired justice Jacob Turkel, is already understood to be a sham. Turkel himself has no significant expertise in these matters. Another member, Shabtai Rosen, would have seemed a much better choice to lead the panel, since, as a recipient of the Hague Prize for international law he has by far the most credibility of anyone involved with this panel. The third member, Amos Horev, a retired general, is not known to be a lock-step supporter of all military decisions, but is also not someone inclined toward really sharp criticism.

From the first, it was the international observers who would lend this inquiry any credibility at all. It should be kept in mind that even with stringent observers, this would have fallen well short of the sort of international inquiry that most of the world has called for. But the inclusion of David Trimble as one of the observers has really undermined any possibility that anyone will take this panel seriously.

Trimble recently joined Dore Gold’s “Friends of Israel” initiative, and has a long history of solidarity with Israel against the Palestinians. The perception of bias that accompanies Trimble being on this panel is going to be far too much to overcome, even if Trimble truly acts objectively.

The other observer, Ken Watkin of Canada, does have a human rights background and was a Visiting Fellow at the

David Trimble

Human Rights Program of Harvard Law School. A second observer like him, rather than Trimble, would have helped.

In the end, this is going to be a question of perception. The way this group of five shapes up, it seems to be constructed so that Israelis who are already supportive of the handling of the flotilla can feel that it is an objective panel, but it won’t convince anyone who comes in with skepticism.

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