Feinstein Calls for Inquiry Into Israeli Raid on Aid Flotilla

June 8, 2010 – 1:48 p.m.

In a significant departure from most of her colleagues, Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Tuesday for an “impartial inquiry” into the Israeli commando raid on a humanitarian flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip that left nine activists dead, including one American.

The California Democrat, one of Israel’s most dependable supporters on Capitol Hill, also urged Israel to “reassess” its “forced isolation” of the Gaza Strip and allow more humanitarian assistance and other materials to reach its beleaguered Palestinian population.

“There should be an impartial inquiry to determine exactly what took place,” Feinstein said in a statement, referring to the May 31 raid, which has drawn widespread international condemnation.

Turkey and other critics charge that Israel used disproportionate force to prevent the activists from running the blockade. Israel says its commandos, who descended by rope from helicopters onto one of the boats, opened fire only after they were attacked with knives, wooden staves and metal rods.

“Israel’s forced isolation of Gaza, along with Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, are the roots of this tense situation,” Feinstein said, referring to the militant Islamic group that runs the Gaza Strip. “I believe Israel should reassess the blockade in order to assure that necessary humanitarian assistance and material can get into Gaza.” Feinstein added that Israel imposed the blockade in response to “countless unprovoked rocket attacks” by Palestinian militants inside Gaza.

The call by Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and commands respect as a moderate voice on foreign and national security affairs, stands in sharp contrast to those of most other lawmakers, who have sided with Israel in the incident. Most have affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and accused the activists aboard the flotilla of deliberately provoking a confrontation.

Feinstein’s call for an impartial inquiry into the incident and an easing of the Gaza blockade are far more in line with the approach favored by President Obama and his top foreign policy aides, who have made similar calls.

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