Israelis Mostly Defiant Over Raid On Aid Ship
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
Today, Pope Benedict called for an international effort to ease tensions in the Middle East. This comes after Israel's raid this past week on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in which nine activists were killed. The ship was trying to defy Israel's blockade.
Yesterday, Israels navy boarded another ship carrying aid to Gaza but without incident. Reporter Sheera Frenkel is in Jerusalem. Hello, Sheera.
SHEERA FRENKEL: Hello.
HANSEN: Tell us the latest news about the blockade.
FRENKEL: Israel has just started deporting the activists that were involved in the most recent ship, the Rachel Corrie. That ship arrived from Ireland and the activists will begin to be deported through Jordan to the various countries of origin. Israel's really trying to end this as soon as possible. They say they want to close this chapter.
But what we're sensing from the international community is that there will be investigations into Israel's botched raid. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed to several Israelis that there will be a joint multi-national investigation into what exactly when wrong here. And the (unintelligible) investigation could include Israeli, Turkish and U.S. officials.
But Israel has really pressed hard to have its own internal investigation and it's not clear whether or not theyre going to accept Ban Ki-moon's proposal.
HANSEN: How has Israel responded to demands for an investigation?
FRENKEL: Israeli leaders have talked about some sort of internal investigation - not one through the military but rather a civilian probe. They seem quite nervous to accept any sort of foreign observer on Israeli soil, as we've seen in the past, including with Operation Cast Lead. They much prefer to conduct internal probes of their own with their own people.
And we've really seen the Israeli papers have just sort of started to investigate how various factions within the Israeli government and military are sort of pointing the finger at each other trying to figure out what went wrong here and who's responsible for the deaths of nine activists and, you know, dozens more being wounded on the flotilla earlier this week.
And the Israeli defense forces, or IDF, is claiming that the decision-making process started with the prime minister and the defense minister and that they didn't really get enough intelligence to know how to handle the raid. Well, the Israeli media is asking why that intelligence wasn't there and why different scenarios weren't explored for stopping the ships.
HANSEN: What have you heard from the people in Israel?
FRENKEL: Last night was actually the first real major demonstration here in Israel of people trying to advocate against the blockade, people asking why the raid on the ships happened. Up until now, most of the protests we've seen have been in favor of what Israel did. And you saw numerous - over the week, you saw numerous sort of protests spring up seemingly spontaneously in front of the Turkish embassy; burning Turkish flags, burning Palestinian flags.
And you get the sense that the dissenters to the blockade and the dissenters to what Israel did during the raid are a fairly small fringe group here in Israel. And I think really the most telling thing was in the Israeli papers over the weekend, they carried photographs of the Israeli naval commanders that were involved in the raid, and underneath them was the word heroes. And you really get the sense that the Israeli public is rallying and is sort of circling the wagons among their people.
HANSEN: Reporter Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem. Sheera, thank you very much.
FRENKEL: Thank you.
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