Finally, Israel’s independent investigation into the May 31, 2010 interception of a Turkish-backed flotilla trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip has been concluded. In summary, both Israel’s action against the flotilla and the blockade itself were legal under international law. Much good will it do them.
Headed by retired Supreme Court judge Jacob Turkel, the investigative committee found that “the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law.”
If this is so, then Israel’s incursion into Gaza in an attempt to curb Hamas rocket attacks a year ago was also justified “in view of the security circumstances, under international law”.
Israel had the right to enforce that naval blockade, just as other nations have imposed naval blockades in international waters in the past (as Britain did during World War II and the US during the Cuban missile crisis).
It’s unfortunate that she’s damned if she does and damned if she don’t. A flotilla – the word sounds so inoffensive – of little boats sets sail from Turkish waters to bring much-needed aid to the beleaguered Gazans, as the world gazes down in sympathy. On board are ‘dissidents’, ‘activists’ and sundry other persons who, it would appear, engorged with moral outrage at the despicable Israeli tactic of preventing weapons smuggling, intend to deliver the contents personally, where, it was alleged, a hero’s welcome awaited them. Smoke and mirrors, froth and bubbles. Whoever is running Hamas’ propaganda unit, he or she is the one deserving a Palme’d’Or.
I wonder whether the anniversary of Dunkirk was deliberately chosen.
I found myself wondering at the time what course of action was presented to the politicians who made the decision and what analysis was made of the consequences of using live fire in any confrontation. Some claim that the demonstrators attacked IDF commandos with guns and other weapons, which is policyspeak for ‘the bastards fired on us’. This shifts responsibility from the political and military decision-makers to the soldiers, who acted in the heat of combat and quite properly fought back. No point in sending armed men if all they have to do is be reasonable. It may be convenient to Netanyahu and his partners in government to present the battle as a local incident that escalated – but they cannot, unfortunately, escape responsibility. Exactly what Hamas wanted. The clumsier and more politically inept Israel can be made to look, the more sympathy is garnered toward those who seek to bring her to her knees. It should not be forgotten that the rulers in Gaza are classified as a terrorist organisation. If a minority authority elects such people to attempt to govern it, they have only themselves to blame if those whom they have sworn to drive into the sea reciprocate using men with guns.
Operationally, Israel came out on top; of course they did – they have superb tacticians. Moshe Yaalon, and the defense minister, Ehud Barak, are both former chiefs of staff. Between them, they have almost matchless experience of military planning and combat. Netanyahu – a former elite commando – has a formidable intelligence and operational record. Of course the Israelis will win tactically if they bring Hamas to battle, but their very superiority on the battlefield is what brings about the propaganda losses they invariably suffer. The world wants a Palestine and doesn’t understand why Israelis can’t give it. The problem here is mindset. Both Hamas and Israel see themselves at war and the world has made a choice based on what looks like fairness, but is spectacularly ignorant of the cultural milieu on the ground.
The Turkel Committee took over seven months to meticulously collect and process testimony and other data. By comparison, the Turkish investigation into the incident took three weeks and concluded by accusing Israel of state terrorism.
Also by way of comparison, the Turkel Committee investigation was entirely transparent, having set up a public website where all milestones and findings were published and regular press conferences held. The Turkish investigation was held behind closed doors.
Israel now waits to see if UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will accept the findings of the Turkel Committee. I think it unlikely, but, watch this space. The world will not be satisfied until the Palestinians get as much as they can, but, even this may paradoxically work against them, since they make political capital from victimhood, with which the rest of the world as well as Hillary Clinton may ultimately lose patience.
Footnote. The publication of the so-called ‘Palestine Papers’ yesterday reveals that there are voices of compromise somewhere in Palestine.
Concessions the Palestinians made behind closed doors would never in reality have been accepted by the Palestinian public, negotiators at the time Abbas and Olmert knew this, evidenced by the fact that they talked a lot but never actually signed an agreement. The Palestinians never intended to conclude the negotiations; it has served them too well to stay perpetual victims, participants in a Greek tragedy.
It is also a clever negotiating tactic. Yesterday, Abbas openly called on Netanyahu to return to the negotiating table on the basis of what Olmert previously offered, omitting what the Palestinians offered in return. But if Olmert’s offer was sufficient, why didn’t Abbas conclude a deal with him?
Surely, most Western power brokers involved in the negotiations can see through the ruse, even if they don’t admit as much in public.