Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Report: Israel to ease Gaza blockade in exchange for watered-down probe


Telegraph quotes Israeli officials as saying country would agree to allow more goods into Strip, but deny willingness to cooperate linked to growing Western support for international probe into deadly flotilla raid. Western sources: Quid pro quo deal in the offing

Israel is prepared to accept a British plan to ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for international acceptance of a watered-down investigation into last week's deadly raid on a Turkish ship that was headed for the Hamas-ruled territory, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.

The British daily quoted Western officials as saying that last week the UK circulated a confidential document proposing ways of easing the blockade.

Israeli officials said the Jewish state would agree, in principle, to permit the passage of substantially more aid through land crossings with Gaza.

According to the Telegraph, the senior Israeli officials denied there was any direct link between their willingness to cooperate over the blockade and growing Western pressure for international participation in any probe of the flotilla raid.

But a Western source close to international discussions with Israel told the British daily that "a quid pro quo deal is in the offing".

The Telegraph quoted the Western sources as saying that many of the British proposals have been adopted by the Quartet on the Middle East peace, the negotiating body that comprises the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

'Creating some additional trust'

The proposals include calls for Israel to abandon its official list of 35 items whose entry into the Hamas-ruled territory is allowed in favor of a list of specifically outlawed items.

According to the report, Israel has also been asked to ease access into Gaza at its land crossings, where there are frequent bottlenecks, and to allow the UN to transport construction materials and equipment needed to rebuild 60,000 homes destroyed or damaged during Israel's military offensive in the winter of 2008–2009

"Israel could be flexible about items reaching the civilian population," an Israeli official was quoted by the Telegraph as saying.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the German and Italian government on Tuesday called for an international investigation into Israel's deadly raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

The United States also backed calls for an international participation in Israel's probe, saying it was "essential" to ensure credibility.

"We understand that the international participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility everybody wants to see," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

"We recognize that international participation... would be an essential element to putting this tragedy behind us and then hopefully creating some additional trust."

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