Israeli raid puts Obama, America, in a big political bind

Protest at White House on Tuesday (AP)

The diplomatic crisis prompted by Israel’s raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip confronts President Barack Obama with a second major test by the Israeli leadership and presents yet another blow to his goal of brokering peace with the Palestinians.

Also taking a hit: the president’s effort to improve the U.S. image in the Arab world. Muslim countries, even U.S. allies Turkey and Egypt, are slamming Obama over his measured reaction to the raid.

Egypt is breaking ranks — temporarily at least — with Israel in their joint blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Still to be seen is whether Cairo permanently opens its border with Gaza.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (AH’-meht dah-voot-OH’-loo) declared — going into a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — that Ankara was deeply dissatisfied with the American response.

Thus, Turkey, by sanctioning the aid flotilla and putting one of its flagged vessels in the lead, and Israel, by launching the bloody confrontation with the convoy, are testing American diplomacy to the utmost.

The aid convoy was intent on breaking Israel’s three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed after the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of the tiny Mediterranean territory in 2007.

The blockade, along with Israel’s fierce offensive against Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009 to stop Hamas rocket fire on Israeli villages, already had fueled anti-Israeli sentiment around the Arab world and in some quarters in Europe.

At the same time, the convoy — it was led by a Turkish-flagged ship and condoned by the country’s government — was clearly a provocation. Israel took the bait, then argued that the botched raid was a matter of self-defense.

Tuesday afternoon, the White House said Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) to express “his deep condolences for the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli military operation.”

The statement further said Obama told the Turkish leader that the U.S. was “working in close consultation with Israel to help achieve the release of the passengers, including those deceased and wounded, and the ships themselves.”

Obama also called for a “credible, impartial and transparent investigation of the facts surrounding this tragedy.”

Earlier Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs wouldn’t say whether Obama condemns the actions of the Israeli forces, standing by the president’s earlier statement that the United States wanted to carefully study what had happened.

However, Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy permanent U.N. representative, argued overnight that Israel already had in place a system for accepting such aid and passing it on to Gaza. That would ensure that weaponry did not reach the Iranian-backed Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Wolff asserted that the top U.N. body’s call for an investigation of what happened in the raid should be carried out by Israel. That was certain to further inflame the Muslim world.

Immediately after the raid, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “state terrorism.” The government recalled its ambassador and called off military exercises with the Jewish state.

His anger did not abate on Tuesday when he told his parliament the Israeli assault violated “international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace.”

“Today is a turning point in history. Nothing will be the same again,” Erdogan said. He demanded that Israel immediately halt its “inhumane” blockade of Gaza.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said four Turkish citizens were confirmed slain by Israeli commandos and five other Turks were believed to round out the total of nine killed.

Obama took office declaring that Israeli-Palestinian peace stood atop his agenda. He demanded that Israel help by stopping construction of West Bank settlements and ending expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, lands the Palestinians envision as part of their future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no and poured salt in that wound when his government announced a major east Jerusalem project as Vice President Joe Biden was visiting to reassure Israel of U.S. support.

After a deep chill, Obama said he recognized that neither side was ready for peace talks. Even so, Netanyahu and the Palestinians subsequently agreed to open indirect negotiations brokered by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell.

With Netanyahu canceling a Tuesday meeting in Washington with Obama, the fate of that small move forward was uncertain.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the raid as a “sinful massacre,” but he signaled he would continue the indirect talks.

Difficult U.S.-Turkish relations are bound to be seriously set back if Obama does not issue a strong statement on the Israeli ship raid. That carries the possibility for major problems inside NATO, where Turkey is the only Muslim member. And it will further complicate U.S. efforts against the Iranian nuclear program.

Turkey had just agreed to take part of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium in return for a smaller, more pure batch of nuclear fuel for Iran’s research reactor that produces medical isotopes. The U.S., Russia and France had proposed the deal late last year, with Russia to receive the Iranian fuel and France to provide the material for the research reactor. Iran said no to that proposal.

The day after the Iranian deal with Turkey, the U.S. announced it was moving ahead with harsher sanctions in the U.N. Washington was at pains to thank Turkey for its efforts but declared them insufficient. Turkey is deeply opposed to sanctions against its eastern neighbor.

During the Cold War, Turkey served as an unquestioning NATO bastion on the Soviet Union’s southern flank. But with the end of the superpower standoff, Turkey slowly began charting a more independent course — most visibly with its refusal to allow the U.S. to use its territory in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Washington has stood beside the Israelis throughout their history, vetoing many anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolutions. At the same time, the U.S. has been at pains to keep the Turks in place as a valued NATO member and democratic buffer against Iran and Arab dictatorships like Syria.

Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1978, is likewise a valued partner in the Mideast. It has stood as a bulwark against growing anti-American Islamic militancy.

Now it would seem that Obama has to choose — unless he can figure a way to hit the illusive diplomatic sweet spot that calms the Turks and Egyptians without offending the Israelis. That could prove an impossible task.

____

Steven R. Hurst has covered international relations for 30 years.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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15 Responses to "Israeli raid puts Obama, America, in a big political bind"

  1. Nevad Ned  June 2, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Israel is using its blockage of Gaza to starve 1.5 million people. Gaza is receiving less than one fourth of the supplies they need to survive. Already the inhabitants of Gaza are suffering from anemia and some from stunted growth. If Israel is allowed to continue starving the Palestinians, Israel will kill 1.5 million people.

    Israel had no right whatsoever to attack an aid convoy which was in international waters. The released activists report that Israel started shooting even before their “commandos” (really terrorists) landed on the boat Marmara.

    Did you notice that Israeli spokesmen have the airwaves all to themselves in the mainstream US media?

  2. Keith  June 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    It’s about bloody time that the rest of the world began acknowledging what most of us have known for decades….that the Government of Israel is nothing but an international bully.

    They keep yelling about keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, yet they refuse to sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty for the Middle East or let UN inspectors inventory the some 200+ of their own nukes that they have yet to acknowledge they even have.

    They keep building settlements on disputed territory and then intercept and cut off badly needed aid supplies to refugees in what can only be described as a growing “Gulag” called the Gaza Strip.

    These were all tactics that the US fervently CONDEMNED when countries like Soviet Russia did them. But yet, the United States continues to prop up the Government of Israel as our “best friend” in the Middle East and calls anyone who disagrees with that notion a “terrorist”.

    Maybe if we stopped trying to prop up the Government of Israel all the time we might see less terrorism aimed at us at home. Clearly, those so-called “terrorists”…people who are simply trying to stop the Government of Israel’s continued occupation and lock down of their once peaceful homeland…hate the USA not because of what we ARE, but because of what we DO.

  3. Klaus Hergeschimmer  June 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Gaza is Israel’s version of the Warsaw Ghetto and our
    Obomber™ ‘We Canⓒ’ president is treating the jailers with kid gloves

  4. Carl Nemo  June 2, 2010 at 11:07 am

    The Israeli state’s continually exercised “get out of jail card” for whatever antisocial acts it commits against their neighbors is the boohoo sentiment associated with them being victims of the holocaust and other pogroms throughout Europe and Russia during WWII.

    Why don’t they boycott German goods and hassle Germany 24/7 instead of everyone else on planet earth. They could set up a blockade against the German North Sea ports of Hamburg and Bremen. I’m sure the modern German state would summarily take care of the blockade no differently than they would have during WWII; i.e., send them to the bottom.

    A few years ago a survey was taken to find out what’s the favorite automobile that Jews like to drive “worldwide”…Mercedes Benz…go figure?!

    My apologia for this comment is the fact my wife is half Jewish. Hopefully I’ll get a “get out of jail card” for this post. :D

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Keith  June 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      Clearly the Government of Israel’s “get out of jail free” card (as you call it) solely based on sympathy for the millions killed in WW II s now wearing thin on the world’s stage. That’s probably because the vast majority of people alive today were not around when that all happened. Pictures are not the same as “being there”.

      However, boarding and raiding ships on the high seas, whether initiated by governments or individuals, is still piracy. Erecting walls and passing laws to keep a whole race of people with religious beliefs fundamentally different than yours from settling in your country… a country that USED to be part of another people’s homeland… is still apartheid. Forcing other nations to renounce the stockpiling and first use of nuclear weapons all the while secretly maintaining a significant stockpile of your own is still hypocricy.

      Clearly, the Government of Israel is hoping their latest overt commando action (of many in recent years) to justify and indefinitely sustain their state of strict religious apartheid all the while continuing to play “victim” will soon blow over and be forgotten.

      This time, it appears they may be absolutely, dead wrong.

  5. DejaVuAllOver  June 2, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Israel has been a terrorist state since 1917 (well, it wasn’t a “state”, more like a terrorist organization) and has pulled off what the Nazis never could. A “state” founded entirely on racist principles, on about 90 % stolen land, using other peoples’ money and military, most often through back door terrorism, false flag attacks, relentless propaganda, covert operatives and outright deception. This is all very well documented, too, BTW, in standard literature, though most of the Internet stuff seems to be censored. Quite amazing, when you think about it. Unlike the Nazis, though, their timing is a lot better. They seem to know that they need to give people time to forget about one atrocity before they start another, unlike Hitler, who thought it was better to get the “job” done all at once. (blitzkrieg) So, my prediction is that Israel will chill for a while, the Jewish media will feign concern and rant about how Israel has learned from it’s mistakes, repented, atoned, yadda yadaa. THEN look out, boys and girls. These people are professionals and I don’t mean that in a good way.

  6. Klaus Hergeschimmer  June 3, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Hey Carl, have you ever heard of a guy named Paul Larudee? a Linguistics professor who was on the resupply ship that didn’t make it to Gaza. He lives in my neck of the woods in the San Francisco bay area.
    Anyway, he was featured in a San Francisco Chronicle web article.

    A significant proportion of posters posting on this story were accusing Paul Larudee, of being an anti-Semitic, terrorist enabler who has devoted his life to coddling terrorsists against Israel and all sorts of outrageous assertions that just did not seem credible.

    My post was nuked because it violated the posting terms of the Chron. I have to assume that I was nuked because I was calling these posters on their hypocrisy.

    The Chron was just letting a fusilade of postings that Larudee was no peace activist and was nothing less than a hardcore terrorist and lucky not to get hung by Israel. I didn’t pull my punches in my post either and that’s why my post was nuked.

    I reminded posters to remember where money to support Israel comes from to
    supply the weapons that were used to beat the peace activists.

    I also cited Israel’s selling of military arms to Apartheid South Africa as a hypocritical action by Israel repressing Africans during that period of South Africa’s history.

    The Lexus Liberal AIPAC editors no doubt were on duty this evening at San Franciso Chron. I truly was disgusted at the Chron which outdid itself coddling the posters characterizing Larudee as a virtual Nazi war criminal.

    It’s so good to get back to CHB and away from ‘We Can’ AIPAC/PNAC enabling news media.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/02/MNBU1DON11.DTL

    • Carl Nemo  June 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Klaus, I’m not familiar with Paul Larudee.

      All I know, when I think of Israel is how they’ve stolen high level secrets from the U.S. since their founding as a state.

      Two cases come to mind. The attack on the USS Liberty with approval and orchestration at the highest levels of LBJ’s government along with the compromise of the NSA’s holy bible of SIGINT ( signal intelligence) signatures; ie., the RASIN gathered over many years by Jonathan Pollard, now serving life in a U.S. prison. He should have gotten the death penalty based on what the significance of the compromised intel and the hazard it placed our men and women in the armed forces on land, sea and air.

      http://www.fitug.de/debate/9901/msg00130.html

      The modern Israeli state is not a friend of the United States and will exploit us for everything they can get. They have operatives embedded throughout our defense establishment that will do their bidding at a moments notice including the bugging of our highest level secret to top secret conference meetings if necessary.

      Those that continue to tout they are a staunch ally of the United States are simply blowing propagandist, feelgood smoke or simply ignorant as to how Mossad operates.

      I urge readers to research the subject of the USS Liberty and Jonathan Pollard so they can get an idea how deeply the Israeli state has burrowed into our nation’s secrets.

      We the taxpayers are being bled white supporting the myth concerning them being our allies. The sooner we pull the plug on this ongoing criminal enterprise the better it will be for the world including many if not most common citizens of Israel who are simply being taken along for the ride by an out of control fascist state, no different than we in the U.S.

      Carl Nemo **==

      • Klaus Hergeschimmer  June 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

        Thanks for the link Carl. I definitely recall the USS Liberty and I remember the Pollard incident but I need to refresh my memory circuts on these facts. The PNAC/AIPAC collusion is something that gets me really riled as well which has been discussed quite a bit in CHB. Tchuss!

  7. Klaus Hergeschimmer  June 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I think what also set off my censure on the SF Chron site was comparing Israel’s policy against Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto of WW-II. The depth of conceit of some of those posters went so far as to call Rachel Corrie a terrorist, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer.

  8. hologram5  June 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Time to stop all monies and support to this terrorist organization. God’s chosen or not, you can’t commit GENOCIDE and get away with it. Yeah, they were slaughtered by Nazis but that was 50 years ago and it’s time to learn from the past and MOVE ON!

    • woody188  June 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      They obviously didn’t learn anything from their own slaughter except how to slaughter others in kind.

  9. Bogofree  June 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I was wondering why the U.N. was so quick to mobilize their collective outrage on Israel yet seem to be dragging their collective heels on the fact that N. Korea aced 46 sailors?

    Now maybe Israel is attempting to sanitize this affair as much as possible but I just wonder to what degree these “innocents” were involved in a “humanitarian” effort. I’m keeping a real open mind on this one.

    Have any of you followed the Barney Frank (D- Meltdown) doing a big beep….beep…beep trying to backtrack on comments immediately said after this incident?

    • woody188  June 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Mr. Frank is a globalist stooge and good friend of Israel. None of their controlled politicians, which amount to more than half our Congress and most of the Senate, are allowed to say even one bad thing about Israel, period.

  10. DejaVuAllOver  June 4, 2010 at 12:18 am

    It’s amazing that facts, history and apparently even truth itself are “anti-Semitic.” But then again, when you’re dealing with people who think that the antidote of choice when you’re caught lying is to tell 2 or 3 even bigger whoppers, maybe the truth IS anti-Semitic! If so, I consider it a compliment.

    Thanks Carl and Klaus for defending the truth. It’s not unappreciated, here.

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