JERUSALEM – Israeli officials said Sunday that they would reject U.N. pressure to establish an international commission to investigate last week’s deadly raid of a Gaza-bound aid-supply flotilla.

Instead, leaders are leaning toward an Israeli-led probe that might include international observers or participation, officials said.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, told “Fox News Sunday” that Israel was “rejecting an international commission,” an idea floated over the weekend by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban suggested a panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer that would include representatives from the U.S., Israel and Turkey. Turkey is home to more than half of the flotilla’s activists, including eight of those killed when Israel attempted to enforce its three-year blockade of the seaside Palestinian enclave.

Israel has rarely submitted voluntarily to U.N. review, saying its enemies dominate the organization and that U.N. probes are one-sided. Israel was furious over a U.N. Human Rights Council panel investigating its Gaza Strip offensive in 2008-09. The so-called Goldstone Commission accused Israel of committing war crimes during the 22-day winter assault.

“We’ve had experience with the U.N. and kangaroo courts,” said an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud Party leaders that Israel was “looking into other possibilities” for investigating the raid. No final decision has been made, officials said. According to Oren, the government is working closely with the U.S. to devise a process that will be seen as credible.

Several Israeli cabinet leaders expressed support for a government-run panel that would either include international observers or share its findings with an international body. Most also said they would only endorse a commission that does not investigate the specific actions of Israeli soldiers during the operation, focusing instead on policy making and operational planning.

Critics said Netanyahu should announce a decision quickly to prevent international pressure from building and cut off calls for an outside investigation.

“The government is procrastinating and thus may visit upon us a Goldstone-style international investigation,” Haim Ramon, chairman of the opposition Kadima Council, told Israel Radio on Sunday.

During his cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated his criticism of the activists who organized the pro-Palestinian ships that attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade, calling them “thugs from a terrorist organization.”

Nine activists were killed May 30 when Israeli commandos raided their ship and encountered fierce resistance from some of the passengers. Several countries have condemned Israel for using excessive force. Israel blamed the activists for attacking its soldiers with iron bars and knives.

In a letter to Netanyahu made public Sunday, a group of top Israeli naval reserves officers said it was inappropriate to blame flotilla organizers for the raid, which they characterized as a “failure,” according to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. The group, which called for an external inquiry, said raid commanders should shoulder the blame.


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