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EDITORIAL: UN report could ruin peace talks

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: UN report could ruin peace talks

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Last Friday, the United Nations panel investigating last year’s flotilla raid by Israeli soldiers of a Turkish ship released its report, and its findings have upset the government in Turkey and have ruptured the diplomatic and defence relationship between the two countries.
Israel has bluntly refused to apologize to Turkey for the raid on the Gaza peace flotilla, despite the fact that there were deep and long-standing ties between the countries in the midst of growing tensions in the Middle East.
Turkey took the unusually drastic step of expelling Israel’s top diplomats and suspended all military contacts. While the report found Israel guilty of using “excessive force”, it says its commandos faced “significant, organized and violent resistance” from some passengers, “requiring” the use of force “for their protection”.
What is unsettling about the report is the fact that though the passengers were unarmed, the Israeli soldiers chose to shoot them. This act of aggression, resulting in the loss of nine innocent lives had not, according to the report, been “adequately accounted for” by Israel.
Even worse was the fact that the report delved into the geopolitical part of the Middle East conflict when it spoke of “the real threats” which Israel faced from Hamas militants. It concluded that this reason justified Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Paradoxically, the UN report has arrived at certain conclusions that negate the UN’s own stand of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, illegal under international law.
Even more baffling is the absence from the report that the Israeli commando raid took place on the high seas. Turkey’s UN envoy rejected the report’s claim that the blockade was justified; pointing out that freedom of navigation on the high seas was part of international law.
The report incidentally requested the Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express “regrets” and not to apologize.
The Turkish government has demanded not only a full apology from Israel but also the lifting of its blockade on Gaza before any normalization of relations, suspended last year following the incident.
Israel, on the other hand, will be emboldened given the fact that it has more or less been vindicated for the blockade on Gaza which this particular UN panel has termed “legal”. This is enough justification for Israel to defend any breach of that blockade.
While the issue of Turkish-Israeli relations in the context of Middle East is critical, what is more significant is the impact the report’s findings will have on the future of Palestinian rights and in influencing Israel’s policy based on illegal occupation and use of force.
What is often forgotten is that though Israel has considerable support for its actions in certain quarters, the findings of this report could ruin any chance for long-term Israeli-Palestinian peace.