Activists are returning to their respective countries and funerals are underway for the nine slain activists in Turkey, one of whom was a 19-year-old dual U.S. citizen. However, the atmosphere of the international community continues to exhibit volatility.
More accounts of the events are pouring in as the activists return. Following the attack, Israel had created an information blackout, barring the captured activists from speaking to media in Israel, but as they return home their stories are emerging. Bulent Yildrim, the head of the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), said: “I took off my shirt and waved it, as a white flag. We thought they would stop after seeing the white flag, but they continued killing people.” Norman Paech, a former German politician accounts: “The soldiers were all masked, carrying big guns and were extremely brutal.” Haneen Zoubi, an Arab-Israeli MP claims Israeli vessels fired on her ship a few minutes before soldiers descended from helicopters. You can also hear an account of the events from former ambassador and former CNI board member Edward Peck, here. (more…)
Just a few minutes ago an interview with former CNI board member and frequent host of our radio show “CNI Jerusalem Calling”, Ambassador Edward Peck, was released by ABC News, giving an insider’s account of what actually occurred between the flotilla and the Israeli navy. In the interview, Ambassador Peck recounts his experience and deportation. He mentions that he and the other people captured were kept in isolation and knew very little about what was going on. He also mentions that another US citizen, Paul Larudee, was injured and remains in an Israeli hospital.
In addition, more countries have stepped forward to condemn the Israeli actions. The EU and Russia issued a joint statement earlier today condemning Israel’s actions and use of force, even going so far as to call for an end to the blockade on Gaza. Shortly after, France joined them in calling for the release of the civilian activists being held.
Even Hamas and Fatah seem united in condemning the attacks and urging the international community to open the borders into Gaza. Today, the PA’s Interior Ministry announced that the Rafah crossing has been opened and restrictions lifted. And Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, released a statement arguing that this attack could help unify Palestinians, stating
“Israel’s crime today is an opportunity for Palestinian unity on the right national platform. It is also an opportunity for the Arab world to re-take the initiative today and to take a strong position against the Israeli bullying and to open the Rafah crossing and to end the siege once and for all.”
Could this attack provide the catalyst for re-opening negotiations between Hamas and the PA? And could it possibly push the international community to get more involved in helping the Gazans and permanently lifting the blockade?
The international community is in a furor after yesterday’s events on the Gaza flotilla that left at least 9 activists dead by the hands of the IDF. Major protests were sparked around the world, from Paris to Istanbul, against the actions of Israel. Strong condemnation was elicited from the UN, though the U.S. had it watered down a bit, Turkish PM Erdogan, who called the raid a “massacre,” the EU, and many other nations. It is clear that most of the world is united such condemnation of Israel, and the state is facing further isolation than ever before.
It is difficult to fathom what went wrong on this humanitarian mission, and the UN has called for an impartial inquiry into the raid. Naturally, there are two differing narratives. The Free Gaza flotilla left Cyprus with the intention of trying to open up three year blockade on Gaza by delivering 10,000 tons of aid. Israel intercepted the flotilla 40 miles away from the Gaza coast, though its formal blockade of Gaza only extends 25 miles off the coast. When the flotilla said its destination was Gaza and would not stop, Israeli forces proceeded to board the ships. Under the UN Charter on the Law of the Sea, a vessel can only be boarded in international waters if it is suspected to be transporting weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Seaborne special forces, which are trained for combat and not crowd control, proceeded to board. (more…)
Last week Congress authorized an additional $205 million in military aid to Israel to help them build up a short-range missile defense system. This defense system, Iron Dome, was created following the 2006 war with Hizballah, during which time Hizballah fired somewhere around 4,000 rockets into Israel. The system was designed to use guided missiles to shoot down mortars and rockets from Southern Lebanon and Gaza. President Obama proposed the plan last week, asserting his administration’s “unshakeable commitment” to Israel’s security.
But is this missile defense system merely for defensive purposes? A number of scholars and journalists have suggested that Israel may be preparing to wage another war against Hizballah. And in April, King Abdullah of Jordan, addressing Congress, warned that a war between Israel and Hizballah is “imminent”. (more…)
Israel claims the borders of Gaza are closed in order to block out violent forces and ensure protection of Israeli citizens. Why, then, does a Turkish-led convoy of international pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian supply intimidate Israel?
Israel has said it would block the 9 fleet ship, which is carrying over 20 million Euros worth of supplies, and 700 activists. If allowed, the supplies would be the largest amount given to the Palestinian territories.
The convoy is spearheaded by the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) of Istanbul, and the fleet includes ships from Britain, Greece, Algeria, Kuwait, Malaysia and Ireland. The fact that the parties are international and non-political in their advocacy of human rights shows how paranoid Israel is through its decision to block the IHH. (more…)
While the Obama Administration has been pushing for a resumption of peace negotiations in recent weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have rebuffed these efforts and refused to cooperate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to bow down to international pressure to halt settlement building in East Jerusalem and Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority will not come to the table until Israel vows to do so. The stubborness of both sides has put peace negotiations on hold. But who is really to blame?
The Obama Administration has made it clear to Israel that it must stop settlement construction, and its their refusal to do so will be disastrous to the negotations. And the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has met with American diplomats in Israel in an attempt to encourage the US to continue pressuring Israel. (more…)
During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week, the Israeli PM met with members of Congress as part of a PR offensive to marginalize recent criticism from the Obama Administration over the announced East Jerusalem settlements. In sharp contrast to the insulted frustration echoed by Administration officials in recent weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood by Minority Leader John Boehner and the Israeli Prime Minister while declaring; “We in Congress stand by Israel..In Congress we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel.” Obama later met with Netanyahu at the White House without posing with the Israel PM for the cameras.
The House leadership’s public posture shows a clear divide between the Obama Administration’s approach to dealing with Netanyahu and that of Congress. While Administration officials directly deal with the diplomatic consequences of Israeli expansion into Palestinian areas, the House leaders pay lip service to ‘furthering the peace process’ while allocating $3 billion annually to help Netanyahu expand and maintain the settlements. (more…)
United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recent visit to the Gaza Strip, and his expression of bewilderment and outrage at the peril of those blockaded within the small territory begs the question; what sort of Gaza would Israel find acceptable?
Military strikes against Gaza and its cross border tunnels, on which the Gazan economy has become dependent, have been renewed in recent weeks. Many children in Gaza suffer from malnourishment, which is known to cause stunted growth as well as stunted brain development. Combine this with the fact that many of the same children have no access to a remotely proper education and one has a recipe for the creation of a new generation of violent extremists; the central argument proponents of the blockade will put forth to begin with. However, we have all heard the statistics and arguments before and a few questions need to be raised about the dire nature of the situation. Only the future remains in question. (more…)
As AIPAC’s annual public policy conference looms in an atmosphere of public tension between Israel and the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) issued a press release urging the Obama Administration to keep any criticism of Israel out of public eye.
After last week’s public relations disaster during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel, AIPAC has thrust itself into the diplomatic fray between the Obama Administration and Israel’s Likud dominated Government. After heavy criticism from the US Vice President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the announced Israeli expansion into East Jerusalem, AIPAC is taking exception with the unusual reprimand directed towards the Netanyahu Administration.
AIPAC will be gathering in Washington this Sunday for their annual policy conference, where both Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu are scheduled to speak. In order to defuse any tension casting a cloud over the meeting, AIPAC issued its statement to ensure that US officials refrain from public criticism of Israel, regardless of state policy or action:
“The Obama Administration’s recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State…The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.”
The statement later implores the Administration to discuss and work out any disagreements behind closed doors, fearing a serious long-term rift unless differences can be smoothed over. Congressman Eric Cantor blamed the Obama Administration for ignoring recent ‘Palestinian provocations’ and stated that the recent outrage directed towards the announced East Jerusalem housing units was ‘irresponsible’.
Despite the official backlash against Israel’s provocative expansion, Prime Minister Netanyahu is attempting to maintain the facade of ‘business as usual’ by continuing the Israeli expansion into East Jerusalem. Israel’s Ambassador in Washington Michael Oren admitted to Israeli diplomats last Saturday that ties between Israel and the United States are at their lowest point in 35 years.
Further to the discussion of the one-state outcome… I just learned that on Sunday (Dec. 20) one of Likud’s young and more hawkish parliamentarians, Tzipi Hotovely, told an Israeli security conference,
It’s time to lift the question mark over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and view the people living there as citizens with an equal status. Thinking ahead, strategically, we should consider granting gradual citizenship to Palestinians based on loyalty tests.
This is a fascinating development that needs a lot more analysis than I have time for here.
HT to Noam Sheizaf for that news snippet. His piece is also cross-posted on his own blog, where one of the commenters writes– I think correctly– that former Likud foreign minister Moshe Arens talked about this publicly at one time.
Of course, Likud hardliners have their own reasons for not wanting to see any final national border separating the west bank from 1948 Israel. And of course, Hotovely would feel that for her own supporters she has to be very clear indeed about stating the requirement for a “loyalty test.”