Groups concerned about potential for flotilla violence

J Street and Americans for Peace Now are expressing concerns about the possibility of violence between Israel and the latest Gaza flotilla.

In separate statements, the two liberal groups said the flotilla, which is scheduled to reach the Gaza Strip this week, is a provocation for conflict. J Street urged organizers to reconsider their actions amid fears that clashes could derail efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We remain deeply frustrated at the lack of progress toward a two-state solution,” the J Street statement said. “But frustration does not justify this new flotilla, which has the potential to escalate the conflict and needlessly put the lives of both Israeli soldiers and civilian activists at risk.”

Americans for Peace Now said that while Israel has no control over the actions of the flotilla organizers, the organization is not “compelled to accept the role” that led to the deaths of nine participants in a raid on the first Gaza flotilla in May 2010.

Both organizations said that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza should be eased. Restrictions on what is allowed to pass should be “narrowly limited to keep out only items with a possible military purpose,” J Street said, while APN called the entire blockade “a failed policy” that has been an ineffective security measure and “inflicts collective punishment on the population of Gaza.”

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Israeli authorities approved shipments of housing construction material to enter Gaza legally and that the flotilla’s aim seems to be to provoke Israeli defensive action.

IDF to open internal flotilla investigation

The Israel Defense Forces will conduct an internal investigation into its interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla that ended in the death of nine activists.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday appointed Gen. Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, to lead the military investigation.

Israel over the weekend rejected a United Nations proposal to establish an international commission to probe the deaths.

The Israeli investigative team will use Navy testimonies gathered following the incident. The team has been charged with determining “the outcomes and lessons learned from the operation,” according to a statement from the IDF.

The members of the team include professionals with expertise on the matter who were not a part of the operational chain of command during the incident.

The investigative team will present its findings to Ashkenazi by July 4, according to the statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also decided to appoint a state panel of inquiry into the incident after deliberating with his forum of seven ministers, Haaretz reported Monday. The forum had deliberated over the panel for days.

Top justices experienced in matters of international and marine law—including at least one American observer—will make up the panel, Haaretz reported, citing an unnamed source.