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Israel Enjoys Victory With U.N. Flotilla Probe

Palmer Commission finds Gaza blockade legal, does not demand apology

Marc Tracy
July 06, 2011
A captured flotilla ship last year.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
A captured flotilla ship last year.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

A panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer is preparing to report that while Israel used excessive force against last year’s flotilla and intercepted the boats too early, presumably making it partly responsible for the nine deaths of the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Gaza blockade itself was and remains legal and Turkey deserves blame for the tragedy at sea as well. (Israel argues that its soldiers acted in self-defense and that it intercepted the flotilla where it did due to tactical considerations.) Israel is not asked to apologize or to compensate the victims’ families. The report also finds that Israel’s internal probe was fair-minded and professional, while Turkey’s internal probe was biased and politicized. All in all, especially given that many of Israel’s most ardent supporters have acknowledged that the deaths last year were not only a tragedy but a strategic blunder, and especially given the track record of U.N. reports concerning Israel, Israel is likely to be pleased with this outcome. Couple it with the effective thwarting of this year’s flotilla, and you’ve had a pretty good week if you’re Israel.

It’s also an outcome that is clearly partly the result of positive diplomacy between Israel and Turkey, although on that front, reportedly, there has yet to be a full healing. Members from both sides are currently negotiating in New York; yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres urged reconciliation. Turkey is demanding an apology for the flotilla raid; Israel wants only to respect regret. The U.N. report is expected to side with Israel, not Turkey, on this question. Indeed, perhaps most telling of all is that Turkey, and not Israel, is urging the report be kept secret.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.