Sir Geoffrey and Gaza

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Sir says he is honoured to head an inquiry into the fatal Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla earlier this year. …

Overnight United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon announced the four-member panel, to be chaired by Sir Geoffrey with outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice-chairman, plus one Israeli and one Turkish member.

The identities of the members from Turkey and Israel were not given on Monday, but the panel is due to begin work on August 10 and submit a first progress report by mid-September. …

Mr Key said Sir Geoffrey had done a tremendous job representing New Zealand on the International Whaling Commission.

“He’s a very, very intelligent man and has a great knowledge of the law and I think it is (also) a recognition that New Zealand is seen as an honest broker, we don’t take sides between Palestine and Israel.

“I think it would be great for New Zealand if it took place.”

Israel’s decision to back the panel was unexpected as it had for weeks insisted it would not co-operate with any international probe and instead launched two internal inquiries.

The about-turn followed contacts and consultations with a seven-member Israeli ministerial forum to ensure that “this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true,” the Israeli leader said.

“It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

I think this is a good decision. I may not like his report on alcohol laws, but I do respect his ability and fairness, and hope he will be able to help resolve the tensions surrounding what happened with the flotilla. I understand he has an expert background in maritime law which is of course highly desirable.

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