"The Cabinet’s decision this morning to establish a special, independent public commission will make it clear to the entire world that the State of Israel acts according to law, transparently, and with full responsibility."

 Government establishes independent public commission

 

Public commission convenes in Jerusalem, 28 June 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)

At the start of the 57th Government Meeting, the Prime Minister said:

"In consultation with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, I am, today, submitting to the Cabinet a draft decision on establishing a special, independent public commission to inquire into the events of 31 May 2010.

Two main principles guided us in proposing the establishment of the commission.  First is maintaining IDF soldiers’ freedom of action and the credibility of the IDF investigation. According to the proposal, except for IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, IDF soldiers will not testify before the Commission.  The IDF, via the team – chaired by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland – that Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi has established will transfer to the Commission the summaries of its operational investigations.

The second principle that guided us is providing a credible and convincing response to the responsible countries in the international community about the events, especially in the context of international law. I am convinced that the Commission’s uncovering of the facts will prove that the goals and actions of the State of Israel and the IDF were appropriate defensive actions in accordance with the highest international standards.

I estimate that the Cabinet’s decision this morning to establish a special, independent public commission will make it clear to the entire world that the State of Israel acts according to law, transparently, and with full responsibility."

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The Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General presented the Government with a resolution regarding appointing an independent public committee, headed by Emeritus Supreme Court Judge, Yaakov Terkel, to examine the events at sea of May 31, 2010. After the Government discussed the resolution, it decided unanimously:

1. To appoint an independent public Commission, headed by former Supreme Court Justice, Jacob Turkel, to examine the aspects set out herein relating to the actions taken by the State of Israel to prevent vessels from reaching the coast of the Gaza Strip on 31 May 2010 (hereinafter: the Commission).

2. The composition of the Commission:

Members:

Justice (Ret.) Jacob Turkel, Chairperson
Shabtai Rosenne, Member
Amos Horev, Member

Two observers will be appointed to the Commission as detailed in paragraph 3:

3. In light of the exceptional circumstances of the incident, it was decided to appoint two foreign experts who will serve as observers that will take part in the hearings and deliberations of the Commission, although they will not have the right to vote in relation to the proceedings and conclusions of the Commission.

Lord David Trimble, Observer
Ken Watkin, Observer

4. The Commission will submit its conclusions on the question of whether the actions set out in paragraph 1 and their objectives, as well as additional matters involved therein, were in conformity with the rules of international law.

For this purpose, the Commission will address the following issues:

a)      Examination of the security circumstances surrounding the imposition of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the conformity of the naval blockade with the rules of international law.

b)      The conformity of the actions taken by Israel to enforce the naval blockade in the incident of 31 May 2010 with the rules of international law.

c)      Examination of the actions taken by the organizers of the flotilla and its participants, as well as their identity.

5. In addition, the Commission will examine the question of whether the mechanism for examining and investigating complaints and claims raised in relation to violations of the laws of armed conflict, as conducted in Israel generally, and as implemented with regard to the present incident, conform with the obligations of the State of Israel under the rules of international law.

6.    

a)     The Commission may request any individual or entity, whether Israeli or foreign, to testify before it or to provide information to it by other means, on matters which the Commission believes to be relevant to its proceedings.

b)     Every relevant governmental body will cooperate fully with the Commission and will make available to the Commission information and documents required by it for the purposes of performing its function, including through testimony before the Commission.

c)     Notwithstanding the above in subsections (a) and (b), with regard to its examination of the military actions set out in paragraph 4(b) of this resolution, in respect of personnel of the military and other security forces the Commission will operate exclusively in the following manner: it will receive for its review the documents it requires and will also be able to request from the Head of the Military Investigative Team authorized by the IDF Chief of the General Staff to transfer for its review the summary findings of the operational investigations carried out following the incident.
If after reviewing the said summary findings of the operational investigations the Commission considers that there exists a need for more in-depth or broader investigations, it will be able to request from the Head of the Military Investigative Team authorized by the IDF Chief of General Staff to issue an order to do so, and to transfer for the review of the Commission the summary findings of the operational investigations to be gathered in this context.

d)     However, notwithstanding the above in subsection (c), the Commission may request any information from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, other Ministers and the IDF Chief-of-Staff, including through testimony before the Commission.

7. The Commission will establish its own schedule and method of work. Commission hearings will be public or closed, as will be determined by the Commission. However, the Commission will not hold a public hearing if such a hearing could endanger national security or the State’s foreign relations, or if in the view of the Commission another legal reason exists to this effect.

8. The Commission Chairperson may determine that certain documents or certain information will not be made available to the Observers, if he/she believes that revealing such information to them is almost certain to cause substantial harm to national security or to the State’s foreign relations.

9. The Commission may authorize qualified persons to gather material needed for the work of the Commission and to assist the Commission in its duties.

10. Upon completion of its work, the Commission will submit to the Government, by way of the Prime Minister, a report.

11. The Commission will publish its report soon after its submission to the Government. However, those sections of the report with regard to which the Commission is convinced, after hearing the opinion of the authorized bodies, that their publication could cause substantial harm to national security, foreign relations, or the well-being or privacy of an individual, or to confidential operational methods of an authorized entity, will not be published.

12. Upon completion of its work, the Commission will deposit all of the minutes of its proceedings, as well as all of the material brought before it, in the State archive.

13. The Ministry of Finance will provide the Commission with a budget for employing assistance staff, the scope of which will be determined by the Commission, in accordance with its needs, as determined by the Commission. In addition, the Office of the Prime Minister will provide the Commission with all the means required by it to carry out its duties.

14. The Government takes note of the statement of the Attorney General that in light of the vital public interest in allowing the Commission to seek the truth, law enforcement agencies will not make use of testimonies given before the Commission or before those individuals tasked with collecting information for the Commission, as evidence in a legal proceeding.

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Expansion of authority of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime incident of 31 May 2010
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
 
On Sunday, 4 July 2010, the Cabinet decided to expand the authority of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010. The proposal was approved without opposition. The authority regards the summoning of witnesses and their testimony under oath. The decision will not apply to IDF soldiers and maintains the independence of the military inquiry.