Yesterday’s raid by the IDF on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’- an aid convoy en route to Gaza- amounts to one more diplomatic nightmare for an Israeli government that is finding itself increasingly bereft of international support.
There can be no doubt that this latest incident will harm Israel’s standing abroad. It only took a matter of hours, not days, for a long list of international condemnation to materialize. It now includes: EU calls for an official inquiry into the incident, shock and concern from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Turkey recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv, Greece pulling out of a planned joint military exercise with Israel, and an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
This latest public relations nightmare comes on the heels of a series of other Israeli image shocks. The assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai continues to be a thorn in the side of Israel’s relationship with the United Kingdom and Australia. Furthermore, relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have still not recovered from high-profile rifts over settlements earlier this year.
Faced with this growing chorus of international condemnation and isolation, it’s interesting that the Israeli military chose to move on the Freedom Flotilla. Other aid convoys, albeit smaller ones, have been allowed to break the Gaza blockade in the past, and the logistical challenge of a large-scale boarding at sea makes a botched operation a real possibility, if not the likely outcome.
It’s possible that the Netanyahu government decided to move on the convoy in response to the US government’s recent nuclear snub. Last week, the Obama administration broke a streak of implicit support for Israel at the UN by supporting a motion calling for Israel to join the NPT ahead of a 2012 regional conference for a nuclear-free Middle East. The resolution is tantamount to calling for Israeli nuclear disarmament, which would be a pre-requisite for NPT ascension.
For America to allow such a resolution to pass, let alone support it, represents a radical shift in policy. In essence, it is an attempt by Washington to wash its hands of the hypocrisy inherent to lobbying against a nuclear Iran while ignoring Israel’s nuclear program. By contrast, when similar resolutions were up for debate during the Bush administration five years ago, the American government refused to allow the inclusion of clauses regarding Israel joining the NPT or future talks on a nuclear-free Middle East.
This recent breach in UN solidarity and the international backlash that’s sure to result from the boarding of the Freedom Flotilla paint an interesting picture moving forward. It’s quite possible that the Obama administration will use this incident to show Israel and the world at large that American support for Tel Aviv is not automatic. After all, this incident is ideal insofar that the boarding took place in international waters and is not directly connected to some of the more prickly, long-term issues that plague the Middle East peace process. Thus, American condemnation won’t end up representing a powerful precedent that could haunt future governments.
Expect Washington to jump in and join the chorus of international condemnation over the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. This would continue the trend of political tug-of-war that has existed between the Netanyahu and Obama governments since the beginning of their respective tenures. In academic terms, it is a complex international power-struggle that is being played out against the backdrop of geopolitical and domestic political considerations. In simpler terms, both are trying to convince the other that they are the one wearing the pants.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
May 24th - May 31st, 2010
A senior U.S. military commander issued a secret order last year that laid the ground for an escalation of covert operations across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, officials said on Monday.
The oil company BP is to decide on whether to carry out a new plan to try to stem the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well, the chief executive has said.
US President Barack Obama is set to extend a moratorium on deep-water offshore drilling for six months, the White House says.
Barack Obama, the US president, is set to unveil a new national security strategy, which calls for more global engagement and aims to downplay fears that the US is "at war" with Islam.
The US government has issued a travel alert warning its citizens that South Africa faces a heightened risk of terrorism during the World Cup.
The latest attempt to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil leak has failed, the oil giant BP has said.
CENTRAL AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Jamaican security forces hunting for alleged drugs lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke have stormed his Kingston stronghold.
A network of national funds should be introduced so the cost of bank failures are not met by the taxpayer, the EU internal market commissioner has said.
NATO peacekeepers and police separated thousands of ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica on Sunday during the worst ethnic unrest since the country's independence two years ago.
EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA
A battery of U.S. Patriot missiles on Monday arrived in Morag, north-western Poland together with more than 100 soldiers that will to be stationed there, press officer of the American battery Janusz Szczypior told the PAP news agency.
Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline.
Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and more than 10 of the mostly international activists aboard were killed, provoking a diplomatic crisis and Palestinian charges of a "massacre."
Israeli prosecutors have charged two Israeli Arab activists with spying for Hezbollah, it has been revealed.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday asked his American counterpart Barack Obama to either choose friendship with Iran by supporting the nuclear swap deal that it had signed earlier this month with Turkey and Brazil or be prepared for a permanent closure of dialogue.
Gunmen have attacked two mosques of the minority Ahmadi Islamic sect in the Pakistani city of Lahore, killing at least 70 people, officials say
The death toll in the train collision in eastern India has gone up to 71, a railways spokesman said.
Thousands of additional American forces are heading into southern Afghanistan, part of the troop surge that President Barack Obama has deployed to help end the Taliban-fuelled insurgency. Already, U.S. and coalition troops are increasing pressure in and around the southern city of Kandahar, where the Taliban have re-emerged and are threatening the population.
Japan and the United States reached a new accord Friday on the relocation of a key U.S. Marine base in Okinawa that basically endorsed an existing 2006 pact to move the facility within the prefecture, ending a bilateral row but putting the coalition government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in danger of collapsing.
China "will not protect" whoever sank a South Korean warship in March, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has said.
North Korea has announced it will scrap an agreement aimed at preventing accidental naval clashes with South Korea, amid rising tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the international community must respond in the growing crisis over the sinking of a South Korean warship.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been sworn into office again, following his controversial win in last month's elections.