US takes the sting out of UN council resolution critical of Israel
When Turkeyâ€™s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, entered the UN Security Council on Monday afternoon, he urged the 15-nation body to condemn Israelâ€™s deadly commando raid on the Gaza aid flotilla â€œin the strongest termsâ€�.
Using powerful language, Ankaraâ€™s envoy labelled the operation â€œmurder conducted by a stateâ€� and â€œbanditry and piracyâ€� on the high seas, while calling on the UN to launch an â€œindependent international investigationâ€� that brings the perpetrators to justice.
But after 13 hours of diplomatic wrangling, Turkish and Arab diplomats left the Manhattan-based chamber yesterday with a compromise statement that had been significantly watered-down by Israelâ€™s stalwart council ally: the United States.
The agreed presidential statement â€œdeeply regrets the loss of lifeâ€� aboard the aid flotilla and called for a â€œprompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigationâ€� â€“ without specifying whether this is conducted by Israelâ€™s military, the UN or another body.
Upon leaving the chamber in the early hours, diplomats acknowledged that the outcome text is a compromise between 15 nations with divergent views, offering enough ambiguity for the Americans, Israelis and Arabs to assert their own interpretations.
The US deputy ambassador to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, said the â€œtext reads pretty clearlyâ€� and reinforces the American position that â€œIsrael can conduct a credible and impartial, transparent, prompt investigation internallyâ€�.
His Palestinian counterpart, Riyadh Mansour, said the statement can be â€œread in more than one wayâ€�. Over the coming days, diplomats from Arab and Muslim nations â€œwill be converging on the office of the [UN] secretary general [Ban Ki-moon], asking him to â€¦ appoint individuals who are capable of conducting an independent investigation,â€� he said.
While expressing â€œfrustrationâ€� at failing to negotiate a tougher condemnation of the Israeli marine attack, which left at least nine activists dead, Mr Mansour said ambiguity in the wording was â€œa small price to pay to keep Israel isolatedâ€�.
Mr Ban has yet to determine who will carry out the probe and will be â€œdiscussing a future course of actionâ€� with Turkey, Israel and Security Council members over coming days, his spokeswoman, Maria Okabe, told reporters yesterday.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva debated a draft resolution backed by Pakistan and Sudan that condemns an â€œoutrageous attackâ€� and calls for independent investigators to travel to Israel and probe the allegations. The 47-nation bodyâ€™s previous investigations have criticised Israel heavily.
While Palestinian supporters portray the water-borne activists as peaceful deliverers of much-needed aid, the Israelis describe those aboard the so-called â€œfreedom flotillaâ€� as provocative, armed thugs who sought to create an international crisis.
Analysts are divided over an incident that underlines long-established arguments over Israelâ€™s right to self-defence, the morality of its blockade on Gazaâ€™s struggling 1.5 million citizens and whether the Jewish state overreacts with unnecessary force.
â€œAny investigation must be done by an independent body, otherwise it will be seen as an inside-job,â€� said Meir Javedanfar, the director of the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company. Sara Hassan, a regional analyst for the forecast group IHS Global Insight, said: â€œThe Americans are buying the Israelis time â€¦ giving them some breathing space.â€�
Opinions were divided over whether providing unwavering diplomatic support for Israel is in Washingtonâ€™s best interests. Mr Javedanfar said Israel was â€œrunning out of favoursâ€� and warned his countrymen are â€œbecoming a liability for the Americansâ€�.
â€œIf the US wants to be a true friend of Israel it must learn to be an honest broker and be seen to be such. At present the US is seen as endorsing what most of the international community see as totally unacceptable,â€� said Oliver McTernan, the director of the interfaith group Forward Thinking. â€œIt exposes the moral and intellectual weakness of US policy.â€�
But Conn Carroll, an editor for the conservative US think tank, The Heritage Foundation, described the importance of supporting its Israeli ally in a â€œtough neighbourhoodâ€� beside countries such as Iran, which Washington accuses of seeking nuclear weapons.
â€œWhen the US distances itself from Israel, as the Obama administration has done, it makes confrontation and conflict in the region more likely, not less.â€�
United States | Politics | 2010-06-02 | slashnews.co.uk