Yesterday the UN Security Council issued a ‘Presidential Statement’ on the events surrounding Israel’s interception of the Free Gaza Flotilla. A ‘Presidential Statement’ does not have the force of law, but it represents the unanimous opinion of the 15 council members. Supposedly the US argued for and got significant concessions in the final version; the Turkish ambassador used words like ‘piracy’, ‘banditry’, ‘murder’, etc.
Before considering the statement, you should keep three things in mind:
- The operation was entirely legal under international law (see sect. 7.7 of the laws of naval warfare here), insofar as Israel was enforcing a blockade of a hostile entity, Hamas, the vessels were warned, etc.
- The operation was planned and intended to be carried out with minimal force. The fact that five out of six ships were commandeered without incident proves this.
- Israeli personnel were met with preplanned violence as they landed on the Mavi Marmara. They were unprepared for it but did not use their weapons for 40 minutes, and until the attackers were shooting at them.
So let’s see, in part, what the USA voted for. You can read the whole statement at the link above.
The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting form the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.
I suppose one could understand the “use of force” to include the actions of the gangsters waiting on the deck with their clubs and knives for the Israelis to land, but it doesn’t sound that way, does it?
The mention of “international waters” is meant to suggest that Israel somehow violated some kind of legal principle, but the law of naval warfare is quite clear that “attempted breach of blockade occurs from the time a vessel or aircraft leaves a port or airfield with the intention of evading the blockade” and not when it enters the blockaded area. This appears only for the propaganda impact.
The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.
This is supposed to be a big favor from the US, in that it calls only for an investigation “conforming to international standards,” and not an “international investigation.” Perhaps the investigation is intended to determine who organized and led the lynch mob on the Mavi Marmara? Somehow I doubt this.
The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009). In that context, they reiterate their grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stress 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.
Resolution 1850 mandates a two-state solution according to the Road Map, something that is now moot thanks to Hamas. 1860 called for an immediate end to the Gaza war, and for the provision of humanitarian assistance. The suggestion of the Statement is that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that aid has not been provided. Both propositions are false.
The truth is that the conflict and Israel’s responses to it are the responsibility of Hamas, an outlaw regime which took control of Gaza illegally, engages in illegal aggression against Israel and subversion against Egypt, employs terrorism, espouses racism, and violates the rights of Gaza residents in multiple ways. It is the major obstacle to a negotiated solution in the region.
And yet the statement suggests that Israel is somehow at fault!
The Statement — or resolution — that I would write, and that the US should have proposed, would condemn Hamas. It would call on the nations of the world to work together to remove this rogue regime from power in Gaza, and to punish its leaders for the various violations of human rights and war crimes that it has committed.
It would state clearly that the Israeli operation was not in violation of international law.
It would call for an investigation of the lynch mob and provide that its sponsors compensate Israel for the injuries to its personnel.
It would commend Israel for providing humanitarian aid to Gaza residents, despite the hostility of Hamas. It would point out that Israel has shown remarkable restraint in its actions toward Gazans, and compare this to the historical treatment of civilian populations in times of war.
Unfortunately, I am not the US ambassador to the UN.
So while it’s true that the Statement that was agreed to is toothless, it is also clearly an anti-Israel propaganda document. It will be understood as a condemnation of Israel and a call for punishment.
Does the Obama administration believe this? Does it accept the implied equivalence between the legitimate state of Israel and the outlaw regime of Hamas? Or between the IDF and the gangsters that lay in wait on the Mavi Marmara? One hopes not.
The US should not have signed on to this unfair and misleading proclamation. But it is only what one expects nowadays, as the US distances itself more and more from its most reliable Mideast ally.