Over the weekend Israel’s cabinet approved creation of a commission to investigate the controversial, ill-fated Israeli interdiction of a Gaza-bound humanitarian-cum-propaganda flotilla.
That’s a good first step, particularly because two of the five members are distinguished foreign observers. But it is naive to believe this will settle the matter for a world predisposed to see Israel as a kind of universal villain. And no finding by the commission will dampen international criticism of Israel’s (and Egypt’s) Gaza blockade.
Doubts will be heightened if the inquiry’s primary purpose is to “prove that the goals and actions of the State of Israel and the [Israel Defense Forces] were appropriate defensive actions in accordance with the highest international standards,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said. It is important that the commission determine what went wrong in an attack that by most accounts represented a victory for Hamas. Israel needs to unflinchingly examine its mistakes and adjust tactics accordingly.
The White House is taking a wait-and-see attitude, resisting pressure for an international probe conducted by United Nations agencies that can be relied on to render a negative verdict for Israel.
Ultimately, Israel will have to address the issue of the blockade itself.
There’s little doubt much of the international opposition comes from those who are at best indifferent to Israel’s legitimate security concerns. From our vantage point, lifting the embargo entirely would be foolhardy, given the reality of Hamas’ endless quest for weapons to strike deep into Israel.
But the way the blockade has been implemented opens the door wide to international criticism and makes even Israel’s few allies — starting with the United States —uneasy. Until now, Israeli officials have done their country a disservice with inadequate, sometimes contradictory explanations of why blockading goods like coriander and potato chips is necessary for national security.
A recalibration of the blockade that takes into account concerns about conditions facing Gaza’s civilian population — which Israeli newspapers report was underway as these words were being written — is critical even as Israel maintains the strictest possible blockade against armaments.
Israel must make good on Washington’s confidence by conducting a thorough, transparent investigation that underscores the democratic values Jerusalem shares with the United States.
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