Saturday, June 5, 2010
The diplomatic disaster created by Israel's attack on a Turkish ship continues. Turkish diplomats warn that Israel risks losing its relations with Turkey unless it apologizes for the attack, consents to an international investigation, and lifts the blockade of Gaza.
Israel seems unlikely to do any of those actions. It claims that the midnight helicopter raid on a Turkish ship in international waters was necessary to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. It denies that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that warrants such relief efforts, and it argues that ships can deliver goods through a port where goods can be inspected.
A professor at a school in California suggested that the entire incident sounded like a complicated fact pattern for the Jessup International Moot Court Competition, and that each side in the dispute has both winning and losing arguments, just as they would if this were an imaginary dispute being argued by law students. Is the blockade an unlawful collective punishment? Was the Turkish ship really in international waters? Was the use of deadly force a disproportionate response? Do you have a right of self-defense if you're the one who went on the ship in the middle of the night after being lowered there by a helicopter?
An Irish ship is the next to sail toward Gaza in hopes of breaking the blockade, so this drama will continue. Other ships are sure to follow, and Israel's actions will be closely watched. The Israeli and Irish governments agreed that the ship should go instead to the Port of Ashdod, but the pro-Palestinian activists on the ship rejected that compromise reached on their behalf.
In the Turkish situation though, it is distressing to see that what was a promising relationship between Israel and Turkey is now on the brink of collapse. Skillful diplomatic skills are needed now more than ever to save that relationship.