Israeli forces boarding flotilla in international waters
Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing government in Israel seems to be trying to make it impossible for any country except (maybe) the United States to stand as one of their supporters. The Israeli government is good at propaganda aimed at the English-speaking world, so whatever the facts are, they will be contested forever. The official Israeli claim that the killing of participants in the flotilla attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip was completely justified could turn out to be true.
But the reaction of the world to the killings is a reality in itself. Except perhaps for news consumers in the United States, it's well known that Israel's blockade of supplies to the Gaza Strip is not only brutal but a crass violation of international law on occupations. When Israel first imposed the Gaza blockade an adviser to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cynically explained its purpose this way (Conal Urquhart, Gaza on brink of implosion as aid cut-off starts to biteThe Observer 04/16/2006):
Israel's policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,' he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.
Even if the activists threaten to lynch sailors of the powerful Israeli Navy, as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claim, the deaths are still causing big repercussions and will bring some much-needed attention to the desperate conditions Israel is imposing on the Palestinians in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu has admitted that the Israeli Navy intercepted the flotilla in international waters, so there is an obvious question why even with the best of intentions, the Israelis felt it necessary to make an armed confrontation with the flotilla there. Even if the occupants of the flotilla did have knives, bats and small arms as the IDF claims, it's less than clear - to put it mildly - that the flotilla presented any kind of physical danger to the Israeli ships in international waters.
Thanks especially to the Iraq War, the United States is very much part of the neighborhood in the Middle East. In both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, actions like this by the Israelis complicate the American situation and provoke reactions that directly endanger American lives. If the Israelis actually were justified in these killings, as they claim, then we can say they had to do what they had to do. But it's a cold reality of American foreign policy that these incidents increase the risk to American troops in the field right now.
And, as Thierry Maliniak rightly observes in ¿Una simple coincidencia?El País 31.05.2010, the Israeli Navy's boarding of the ships in international waters and the resulting deaths and injuries took place on the eve of a scheduled visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington. If Dilip Hiro (The American Century Is So OverTomDispatch 05/27/2010) is right in his analysis of what is happening between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations, this is one more piece of evidence that the small country of Isreal, overwhelming dependent on American economic, military and diplomatic aid and support, feels perfectly free to poke their fingers in Obama's eyes, confident that no serious consequences will befall them.
Maliniak suggests that the main message of this action from Netanyahu to Washington is that they have no intentions of making any kind of significant concessions in any peace talks over the status of the Palestinians.
As I've said before, I hate to be pessimistic. But it looks to me like the possibility of a two-state solution is effectively gone. The question then becomes how - of if - Israel will integrate the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and how - of if - Israel will make the transition to being a state in which Jewish citizens are a minority. The only feasible alternative will be a fully apartheid society, not just one in the West Bank. A less feasible but theoretically possible alternative, but one that the most hardline Israelis (including at one time the current Foreign Minister Avidor Lieberman) have advocated, would be the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel out of the country. In any case, it appears that the opponents of a peace settlement have now succeeded in permanently removing the two-state solution as a practical alternative.
I'm including a number of links here of both news and opinion articles that I've seen today:
Video: Israel Navy troops storming Gaza flotillaHaaretz 31.05.2010 (The first of the two videos included is from the Israeli Defense Forces and is pretty obviously a PR piece in English aimed presumably at American audiences, in particular.)