Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel, the Gaza flotilla and peace possibilities

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 bite The 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.

One notable effect already is the outrage from Israel's second-most important friend in the Islamic world (after Egypt), Turkey: Erdoğan accuses Israel of state terrorism Today's Zaman (Turkey); Turquía habla de "terrorismo de Estado inhumano" y avisa a Israel de que asuma las "consecuencias" El País 31.05.2010.

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 Over TomDispatch 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:

From Israeli sources:

Avi Trengo, Predictable Israeli fiasco Ynet News (Yediot Aharonot) 05/31/2010

Barak Ravid, Netanyahu cancels Obama meeting in wake of deadly Gaza flotilla clashes
Haaretz 31.05.2010

Amnon Meranda, Soldier: Activists came for war Ynet News (Yediot Aharonot) 05/31/2010

Turkey recalls envoy to Israel in response to Gaza flotilla deaths Haaretz/Reuters 31.05.2010

Aluf Benn, Israel needs national inquiry into deadly Gaza flotilla clashes Haaretz 31.05.2010

Video: Israel Navy troops storming Gaza flotilla Haaretz 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.)

Obama holds condemnation of Gaza flotilla clashes, calls for clarification of 'facts' Haaretz 31.05.2010

Israel Navy commandos: Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us Haaretz 31.05.2010

The Second Gaza War: Israel lost at sea Haaretz 31.05.2010

Attila Somfalvi, Livni explains PR efforts Ynet News (Yediot Aharonot) 05/31/2010

Shmulik Hadad, 'Marmara' ship docks in Ashdod; video shows attack on troops Ynet News (Yediot Aharonot) 05/31/2010

Mordechai Kedar, A war for world’s future Ynet News (Yediot Aharonot) 05/31/2010

Other sources:

María Ramírez, La UE condena la 'masacre' de la flotilla de ayuda y se aleja aún más de Israel El Mundo 31.05.2010

Glenn Greenwald, Israel attacks aid ship, kills at least 10 civilians Salon 05/31/2010

Manifestaciones en todo el mundo en señal de protesta por el ataque israelí El Mundo 31.05.2010

La OTAN se reúne este martes de urgencia a petición de Turquía Cadena SER 31.05.2010

Antonio Caño, Un desastre diplomático para Obama El País 31.05.2010

Argentina se sumó a la condena mundial por el ataque Clarín 31.05.2010

Ulrike Putz, Israelische Militäraktion: "Schade, dass wir nicht alle Schiffe versenkt haben" Spiegel Online 31.05.2010

Gilad Atzmon, Israeli butchery at sea Al Jazeera Magazine 05/31/2010

Tale of Israeli Soldier Being Peace Pigeon Indigestible Anymore Al Jazeera Magazine 05/31/2010

Enric González, Israel se asoma al abismo El País 31.05.2010

Juan Crux, La desigual batalla El País 31.05.2010

Christoph Schult, Attacke auf Gaza-Flottille: Unrecht eines Rechtsstaats Spiegel Online 31.05.2010

Shlomo Slutzky, Soldados israelíes se defienden y critican la mala organización Clarín 31.05.2010

Julio Algañaraz, Los palestinos ganan una guerra sin disparar un solo tiro Clarín 31.05.2010

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