Today, Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron forthrightly told the House of Commons that the time had come to end the Gaza siege:
…Cameron told the Commons: “Friends of Israel – and I count myself a friend of Israel – should be saying to the Israelis that the blockade actually strengthens Hamas’s grip on the economy and on Gaza.
“And it’s in their own interests to lift it and allow these vital supplies to get through.”
He added: “We should do everything we can through the UN, where resolution 1860 is absolutely clear about the need to end the blockade and to open up Gaza.”
To indicate just how much on the defensive Israel is and how deafening the chorus must be in England against the attack, Israel’s ambassador all but said “we f’ed up:”
Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador, said: “It’s obvious, and I won’t beat around the bush on this, that, you know, this wasn’t successful and I think it clearly took up an issue that should have been solved differently.”
What is our dear progressive president doing? Nothing. The State Department’s P.J. Crowley danced rather lamely around questions put to him by a BBC radio interviewer and absolutely would not call for an end to the siege.
There may be some glacial movement indicated in this NY Times article:
The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.
…The officials say that Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla trying to break the siege and the resulting international condemnation create a new opportunity to push for increased engagement with the Palestinian Authority and a less harsh policy toward Gaza.
“There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy shift is still in the early stages…
Well, there you have it. British Tories get it right without any trouble at all, while liberal Democrats have to create focus groups, consult with Aipac, and get down on bended knee to Bibi saying “Pretty please.”
And note that Bronner talks of ameliorating the suffering by incrementally improving conditions instead of going whole hog and demanding the end of the whole rotten policy.
Contrast this with the alacrity with which Turkey acted to get its citizens returned from Israeli prisons today. Apparently, Prime Minister Erdogan understands Israel’s pressure points better than our own government.
The UN Human Rights Council, the same body which appointed Judge Goldstone to investigate Operation Cast Lead, voted to condemn the flotilla attack and open an investigation into it. Maybe they think the second time’s the charm. Will Israel learn its lesson from the last fiasco and decide to cooperate with the mission? Doubtful. Many Israelis saw the outcome of the Goldstone report and the damage it did to Israel’s image and tut-tutted that their government made a mistake by refusing to cooperate. Will anything change the second time around? We shall see.
A group of American rabbis has penned a statement of protest against the Flotilla attack and demanded an end of the Gaza siege:
We call upon our community not to turn away in denial or blame those of good will and good purpose who risked their lives to relieve the beleaguered people of the Gaza strip.
We lift up our voices and call upon Israel…to turn away from the policies of occupation, siege and indifference to international law.
It just emerged that one of the dead was an American citizen. When it comes to Israel, our government won’t even speak up when Israel murders our own. Disgraceful.
Meni Zehavi says
Yes, the name of the dead American citizen is Furkan Dogan (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/world/middleeast/04flotilla.html?hp)
Now we will see whether Obama will send US military planes to Israel or will keep looking around for his b..ls.
Now, if it were a British blockade of, say, Ireland, Obama would be “enraged” before the cameras on a daily basis.
It was instructive to note at the time of the Kosovo crisis, how careful the Royal Navy and US Navy were about stopping Serbian and Russian freighters, even when they had a very clear UN mandate allowing them to do so. General Wesley Clark apparently wanted them to be more aggressive (always his wish when dealing with Serbs, in all other matters he is by all accounts a reasonable man) but the Admirals kept well on the side of legality, sensing that if they were heavy-handed, agile minds in Moscow and Belgrade would manufacture an incident out of it.
Is the IDF so all-knowing that it cannot learn from the experience of a navy that’s patrolled the seas since the reign of Alfred the Great?
I am myself not so all-knowing, so I would really like to know how the Royal and US Nacy were able to stop ships trying to smuggle into the region under blockade. If there is a peaceful way to stop them without anybody getting hurt, then I would really like to know, and the IDF should learn as well. So how did they do it?
They used intelligence means to work out what was in the cargo before it got onto the ships, and the connections of the ship’s owners.
Helped, admittedly, by several decades of preparation for seeing what was coming out of Russia’s Black Sea ports.
Having Turkey as a friend, rather than an enemy, helped a lot because ships coming from Russian ports have to sail through the Bosphorous to reach the Aegean: they have a treaty guaranteeing their right to do this, but it also means that they are sailing over an awful lot of sensors:
Cargo ships bend under their cargoes. They bend differently for different cargoes loaded in different ways. All of these bends make different noises with the water flow as the ship moves. At the very least you know whether the vessel has something heavy in it that’s not on the manifest.
How much they can really tell is something that nobody, not even the FSB, is really sure of.
If you ask Turkish Intelligence very nicely, and haven’t slaughtered Turkish citizens, the odds are that you will be given photographs of the cargo being loaded in the first place.
If you have a UN mandate to board ships by force, you make a point of always asking first, regardless, so that you only get a defensive response from people who have something to hide. If you are heavy-handed, you get this response from everyone and you don’t have a clue where to look.
If the hard cases can see a Lynx helicopter with Sea Skua missiles on somewhere in the background, they won’t see any future in discharging small arms at a boarding party from a transport helicopter or a Gemini craft.
The firm but FAIR application of the threat of great force, having always asked nicely first, minimizes the chance of having to use more minor force. You never threaten the use of force until someone has been given the chance to cooperate, but you hold the capacity to sink them and you make sure that is credible.
For example; the US Navy took the Harpoon missiles off their patrol aircraft, because these were so overpowering that nobody would have believed they would use them in a crowded shipping lane, and replaced them with more selective Maverick missiles, which they could use. This act of preparation was an act of communication in itself.
But the over-arching point was that they had the law firmly on their side and they stayed within it, giving the Russian and Serb captains no plausible excuse for obstruction and resistance, which meant that those who actually needed to be boarded knew they wouldn’t succeed in using emotional blackmail to get out of it, or turn their arrest into a propaganda coup.
Staying within the law strengthens your hand, straying outside it allows your adversary to protest innocence, claim harassment and generally make all kinds of mischief.
The Russians weren’t so much looking to run the blockade, as to manufacture a hue and cry at the UN in order to have it discontinued and thus cause the UN and NATO efforts to stop the genocide fall into discredit and disarray.
AGILE minds were at work in Moscow and Belgrade. It is worth remembering, though, that all the clever manipulation from Moscow was directed towards facilitating an act of genocide and giving their ally time to complete the crime. This objective grated with the Russian commanders in the region, who stuck to the letter of their orders rather than get creative. They could have caused a lot more trouble than they did, particularly at Pristina airport, and it is clear that the Kremlin wanted them to cause trouble, and they would have caused trouble if they’d been confronted as aggressively as General Clark wanted. The Admirals, and General Jackson, used courtesy to defuse the situation, whilst keeping control of it. The Kremlin wanted trouble to happen, but did not want to issue an order to cause it. They were relying on “NATO provocation” and the wiser NATO commanders worked night and day to make sure there wasn’t any.
However, the political culture in Israel is such that anything short of aggression is perceived as inadequacy and a willingness to let the entire Jewish people be murdered. The IDF has, in effect, spent the past fifty years gradually breeding the fine judgement out of its top commanders and it’s beginning to tell.
Thanks for the explanations.
I will summarize the main points of the method that you recommend.
1 – Don’t check all boats, try to assess the cargo from indirect means (how the boat bends, photographs).
2 – Stay within the law giving the vessels to be checked no excuse for resistance, so that they know they cannot turn their arrest into a propaganda coup.
3 – Ask politely if you can check, and convey positive messages in other ways (like replacing of Harpoon missiles)
4 – If after all that they still resist, I gather from what you wrote the method was to fire Maverick missiles and/or sink the boat.
Regarding point 4, I gather this from what you wrote:
a) “someone has been given the chance to cooperate, but you hold the capacity to sink them and you make sure that is credible”
b) “selective Maverick missiles, which they could use”
Actually it would help if you clarify point 4 because, while the other points are worth considering by the IDF, I have not doubt that the Captain of the Mavi Marmara would have still refused to cooperate with the IDF no matter how polite you ask, as he vowed to reach Gaza no matter what.
The main and declared purpose of the ship was to make a propaganda coup (to force Israel to lift the blockade), and they were set not to cooperate with the IDF in any case. You will surely agree with me on this point. There is no need to discuss if their intent was commendable or not. The point is that this was their intent, and no politeness would have have them agree to stop their boat. You recommend staying “within the law”, but if the boat doesn’t recognize the right to enforce the blockade in the first place, then there is nothing the IDF can do to enforce it and still not giving any excuses to the activists.
Even if you think there was a remote possibility they they would stopped, my question was was to do how to stop them if they don’t. So we need to clarify point 4, i.e., what to do if the boat still refuses after given enough opportunity to cooperate.
Other comments – you write
“if you are heavy-handed, you get this response from everyone”
While I agree that being polite helps, it is obvious that the IDF managed to get cooperation from 5 out of the 6 boats. That is 83% success in avoiding conflict by the IDF. I assume that the Admirals from which IDF should learn the methods, achieved a higher success. Did they have 100% success? (no ship resisted them and all cooperated?)
So in summary, I understand that you propose that an army should use all the diplomatic methods to avoid conflict. The last resort method to enforce a blockade on a non-cooperative ship would be using Maverick missiles. Could you expand on that?