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As UN Gaza flotilla inquiry opens, a chance for improved Turkey-Israel relations?

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Yesterday, Ban denied making that promise, throwing into question Israel’s cooperation. An Israeli government statement said: "Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu makes it absolutely clear that Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers."

The last-minute dispute signals the myriad red lines and potentially conflicting demands that the panel will have to navigate as it takes up its work today.

The UN panel is expected to examine internal Israeli and Turkish investigations and report back to Ban by mid-September. Israel’s military completed its probe of the incident several weeks ago, while an inquiry into the raid’s legality headed by former Israeli Supreme Court judge Jacob Turkel began questioning top Israeli leaders this week.

A broader mandate?

Some in Israel are seeking a broader mandate for the UN inquiry, including an examination of the Turkish NGO behind the flotilla – which some Israelis allege has militant links – and the necessity of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is needed to prevent Hamas from receiving weapons.

The Turkish government, which is under domestic pressure to display its achievements before a Sept. 12 referendum, is likely to press for an apology and demand compensation.

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