The massacre on a humanitarian aid boat sent toward Gaza to highlight the blockade which is slowly starving the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian strip of land shows every sign of sparking a larger and more deadly set of incidents. The UN Security Council met in emergency session yesterday, and even the British Ambassador called for an end to the naval blockade. The US representative made an excuse about relief aid needing to go through “non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms” (saying pretty please?), but the fact that Britain basically refused to defend Israel on this is notable. The Council’s statement did call attention to the impact of the blockade, saying that the membership “reiterates its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.”
The Security Council is the least of Israel’s worries at this point, however. Turkey, incensed by the attack on ships carrying their flag, plans to return with another flotilla within the next two days, escorted by the Turkish Navy. Turkey, a NATO member, could then draw the same response of the IDF, which basically would turn this into an act of war. And Turkey’s domestic dynamic seems to be militating in that direction. Even without war, you have the loss of Turkey as a strategic partner for Israel, moving them more toward Syria. This is a real diplomatic disaster for Israel.
Already yesterday, tensions on the border between Israel and Gaza have escalated. Israeli warplanes killed three in a bombing in northern Gaza, after being accused of firing rockets into southern Israel. I can’t see that dissipating, although the fact that Egypt has temporarily opened their border with Gaza could at least mean that thousands of Palestinians can get out of the area under siege.
The NYT headline, “Raid Complicates Push for Peace,” is quite the understatement. I cannot see the indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians going forward at this point. You can add the blockade to the settlements issue as not only deeply isolating for Israel around the world, but a hard barrier to any negotiations toward peace. Martin Indyk and Robert Malley are not really pro-Palestinian peaceniks:
“This regrettable incident underscores that the international blockade of Gaza is not sustainable,” Martin S. Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel, said Monday. “It helps to stop Hamas attacks on Israelis, but seriously damages Israel’s international reputation. Our responsibility to Israel is to help them find a way out of this situation.” [...]
“You can talk all you want about proximity talks, expend as much energy as Obama has, but if you ignore the huge thorn of Gaza, it will come back to bite you,” said Robert Malley, program director for the Middle East and North Africa with the International Crisis Group.
The blockade now becomes a front-burner issue in negotiations, if Israel and Palestine can even carry them out now. And who knows what the rest of the week, and a possible incident with the Turkish Navy, will bring.