Thursday, September 01, 2011

Turkey Issues Apology Ultimatum To Israel On Mavi Mamara As UN Report Is Leaked

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has issued a one day ultimatum to Israel for an apology and compensation for the May, 2010 raid on the flotilla ship Mavi Mamara, which occurred when the ship was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Davutoglu said that if Israel did not comply immediately, the country would "resort to Plan B."

The ultimatum was apparently sparked by the leaking of the UN's Palmer Report investigating the incident, in which nine crew members on the Mavi Mamera were killed when they attacked Israeli naval commandos attempting to board the ship. The Mavi Mamera's crew had refused to follow Israeli orders to proceed to the port of Ashdod to have their cargo inspected.

The Palmer report, which is scheduled for release tomorrow was leaked by the New York Times today. Surprisingly for a UN document, it seems to be somewhat fair to Israel.

The report found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal and appropriate but that the way its forces boarded a Turkish-based flotilla trying to break that blockade was "excessive and unreasonable. "

The report, also found that when Israeli commandos boarded the ship they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. But the report called the force “excessive and unreasonable,” saying the loss of life was unacceptable and the Israeli military’s later treatment of passengers was abusive.

Turkey is particularly upset by the conclusion that Israel’s naval blockade is in keeping with international law and that its forces have the right to stop Gaza-bound ships in international waters, which is what happened here. That conclusion oversteps the mandate of the four-member panel appointed by the United Nations secretary general and is at odds with other United Nations decisions, Turkey argued.

The report does recommend that Israel should make “an appropriate statement of regret’ and pay compensation, but the Turks say that formula does not express sufficient remorse.

The report asserts that Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza is necessary fo r Israel's security.

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report says in its opening paragraphs. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

The report criticizes the flotilla,saying that it “acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.” It said that while the majority of the hundreds of people aboard the six vessels had no violent intention, that could not be said of IHH, the Turkish aid group that primarily organized the flotilla. It said, “There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH.”

The IHH were the primary element of the crew on the Mavi Mamera. There was no violence that occurred on the other five ships, all of whom followed the orders of th eIsraeli navy to proceed peacefully into Ashdod to be inspected.

Regarding the boarding of the ship, the Palmer Report also said Israel should have issued warnings closer to the moment of action and should have first turned to nonviolent options.

Hard to say exactly what they mean here. The videos clearly show that warnings were issued and the Israeli Naval commandos boarded the ship armed with paintball guns and beanbag rounds, one reason a number of them were injured. They walked into a planned ambush. In fact, the second Israeli who came aboard was shot.

Still , all in all this is a fairly balanced report for the UN, which is one reason the Turks have tried to keep it buried for months. They're reportedly furious especially over the Palmer report's legitimizing of Israel's Naval blockade.

As for the 'Plan B' the Turks are threatening to implement, it's hard to figure what that might be. Relations between Turkey and Israel have been deteriorating sharply ever since the Islamist Erdogan government took power, and there is no longer much if any military or security cooperation. Most of the pro-Israel secular elements in the Turkish military have already been purged.

Trade sanctions by Turkey might occur, but might hurt Turkey more than Israel. The Turks not only export more to Israel than they import, but much of what Turkey imports is high tech items and weaponry for its military that are harder to replace than the ready-made clothing, fabrics, and metals Turkey exports to Israel.

The only other factor on the table is Turkey's 23,000 Jews. There's no question that life could be made much more difficult for them by an angry AKP government,and Turkey has a long history of such persecution.

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