June 1, 2010


Condemnation of Israeli assault complicates relations with U.S. (Glenn Kessler, June 1, 2010, Washington Post)

The latest furor may have caused irreparable harm to Israel's relations with Turkey -- a Muslim state with which Israel has long had close ties -- because so many of those onboard were Turkish. At the United Nations, Turkey's foreign minister urged the Security Council to condemn Israel's raid and set up a formal inquiry to hold those responsible for it accountable.

"This is terrible for Israel-Turkey relations," Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, said in an interview. "I am really saddened by it."

Tan, who served as ambassador to Israel from 2007 through 2009, said Israel's actions demand condemnation from every country because the flotilla incident took place in international waters and involved civilians on a humanitarian mission. But he said the Obama administration's initial statement was wanting. "We would have expected a much stronger reaction than this," he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be in Washington on Tuesday to discuss Iran with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Turkey's fury over the Gaza incident will inevitably top the agenda.

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator now at the New America Foundation in Washington, said it's not the first time Israel has done itself a disservice.

"Israel constantly claims it wants the world to focus on Iran, but then it ends up doing something that gets everyone to focus on itself," he said.

Apart from the raid, attention is likely to fall on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which has faced an Israeli blockade since the Hamas militant group seized power three years ago. Although the Obama administration has pressed quietly for less onerous restrictions on trade, it has not questioned Israeli policies. Special envoy George J. Mitchell has never visited Gaza in about a dozen trips to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Without high-level attention, the situation in Gaza -- a narrow coastal area with 1.5 million people -- has faded from view. Now that might change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2010 5:33 AM
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