An editorial in today’s NYT criticizes the agreement that Washington and Israel reportedly reached a couple of days ago under which Israel would run the allegedly ‘international’ investigation into its own actions in the May 31 Mavi Marmara raid, while the US and the EU would have ‘observers’ on the investigatory panel.
The editorial says this:
- The international outcry over this episode is unlikely to subside until there is an “impartial, credible and transparent investigation” as called for by the United Nations Security Council. That means a full investigation — in both Israel and Turkey.
Israel stubbornly keeps insisting that it can do the inquiry itself. Israeli news media on Friday said that the government planned to appoint an investigatory committee led by a former Supreme Court judge with American and European observers. Turkey’s government wants an international investigation — and insists ruptured relations with Israel will not improve without it. It has yet to acknowledge that its role needs to be part of it.
A panel under the auspices of the so-called Middle East peace quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — would have a far better chance at delivering credible findings. Israeli and Turkish representation would have to be included.
That is in Israel’s clear interest. And it is in Turkey’s clear interest. The Obama administration should be pressing both its allies to embrace the idea.
The editorial based its argument in good part on the claim that, while Israel has many questions to answer, “so does Turkey.” Yes, maybe. But it was not Turkey that attacked a peaceful ship in international waters, murdered at least nine of the civilian passengers and wounded many more, took all the passengers of the Mavi Marmara and five other boats hostage to Israel where many were mistreated and all had their personal possessions taken from them, etc.
Ah well. It is still good that the NYT is arguing against Israel being given a green light– by the US and the rest of the UN– to investigate itself.
The NYT’s editors do not, however, come straight out and make the case, which surely is an excellent one to be made, that no-one in their right minds should be expected to deem an Israeli-dominated ‘investigation’ of the Mavi Marmara raid to be in the least bit credible.
Aside from the inevitable credibility problems inherent in any plan for a self-investigation, the Israeli government has also grossly undermined its credibility over the past two weeks by, among other things, putting out clearly doctored media accounts of what happened aboard the ship (at least one of which it was subsequently forced to retract), and by confiscating/stealing all the electronic records that it could, that had been kept by flotilla participants of the events that had led up to the raid.
The fact of that act of robbery/confiscation means that both (1) The flotilla participants are strongly hampered in being able to present their own documentary evidence of what happened before and during the raid, and (2) The Israelis have now had 12 days to scrutinize and, where they want, alter those records; and we still see no sign that the records will be either returned to their rightful owners or surrendered to any impartial international body.
I argued here yesterday that Washington’s reported stance of giving support to Israel’s plan to establish its own ‘investigation’– and to give that Israeli body some apparent international cover by including US and EU ‘observers’ in its work– seemed quite crazy and actively harmful to our country’s true interests. In the international system, an Israeli-dominated ‘investigation’ of the flotilla murders will have zero credibility; and for the US to want to have any association with such a scheme will bring an absolute torrent of future problems for the US government.
But the Obama administration, with its eyes only on the November Congressional elections in the US, shows no understanding of the continuing global implications of its stance, at all. Just yesterday, an un-named White House official strongly denied an earlier report that it was considering supporting a U.N.-led investigation:
The White House official said the administration continues to support “an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent.”
Well, an Israeli-led investigation that has these properties might be a fine thing. But no-one outside Washington DC and Israel has any reason to expect that the Israeli government would deliver such an investigation!
Another important aspect to the whole investigation issue is that the need for an investigation, “because we don’t yet know all the facts”, has frequently been cited by Obama administration officials as a reason to postpone issuing any firm U.S. judgment on the raid in its own name. Its function in Washington’s diplomacy is therefore, first and foremost, one of delaying any further U.S. action regarding the raid– in which, remember, Israeli commandos killed one U.S. citizen, beat and wounded a number of others, kidnapped around a dozen U.S. citizens, and stole their personal possessions.
For his part, Turkey’s PM, Rejep Tayyip Erdogan, has roundly rejected the idea of any Israeli-dominated investigation into the raid. He has called for a full-fledged UN investigation, and has stressed that it needs to complete its work within two months so all the issues arising from the raid can be dealt with in timely fashion. Many of the other governments whose citizens were assaulted and harmed in the raid are likely to join their voices to his.
The flotilla murders issue is definitely not going to go away as a continuing issue in international politics, however desperately Washington might wish it would do so. (But could someone please tell Iran’s Pres. Ahmedinejad that him sending two Iranian boats to try to break the blockade, as he apparently plans to do, is about the least helpful thing he can do right now?)
By comparison with that clear position, the NYT editors’ calls for a “Quartet”-headed investigation, with Israeli and Turkish representation, is still somewhat US-centric and diluted. (It’s not as if the US-led “Quartet” actually has any achievements or global credibility to its name, at this point.) But still, it is an excellent sign that even those traditionally strong supporters of Israel in the NYT editorial board are now saying that the Israeli-US proposal is inadequate.