U.N. Panel Finds Israel's Naval Blockade Legal, But Flotilla Raid 'Excessive'

Sep 1, 2011

A United Nations panel has found that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is legal. But the panel also stated that a May 2010 armed raid on a flotilla, which was carrying activists trying to break the blockade, was "excessive and unreasonable." Eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent died in the raid.

The New York Times obtained an early copy of the report, which is expected to be released tomorrow.

The Washington Post reports:

The 105-page report — written by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister, and Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's former president — concluded that Israel has a legal right to maintain a naval blockade of Gaza. But it called on the Israeli government to offer a public expression of "regret" for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, where the most violent clashes occurred, and to pay compensation to the families of the dead.

The Israeli raid on the flotilla, which was organized in Turkey, threatened to torpedo one of the most important diplomatic alliances to emerge in the Middle East: the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, one of the region's most important Islamic governments and a U.S. ally.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon established the panel, with the approval of Israel and Turkey, in an effort to help to reconcile differing accounts of events on the flotilla from Israel and Turkey, and to help patch up strained diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

The Times reports that the publication of the report was delayed several times in hopes that Israel and Turkey would mend relations. But both countries, reports the Times, object to the conclusions reached by the panel.

Turkey doesn't agree that Israel's blockade is illegal. The country doesn't believe that Israel has the right to stop ships in international waters to enforce a blockade, which is what happened in this case.

Israel did not want to apologize, reports the Times. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel believes that apologizing would demoralize his citizens and broadcast a message of weakness. Aides say he might reconsider at a later date if the Turks soften their position," writes the Times.

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