Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Different Outcome: The Clinton Report?

The MV Rachel Corrie was intercepted today by the Israeli Navy, boarded by commandos of the same unit as the May 31 seizure which had disastrous results, and no incident of violence transpired between the 19 passengers and the blockade enforcement force. The freighter now sits in Israel's Ashdod harbor, its content as yet undelivered. Israeli authorities are offering to move the approved humanitarian supplies to a non-Hamas distributor through one of its monitored land-border transfer points, but both the flotilla organizers and Hamas refuse to allow this "vital" humanitarian equipment to be processed by Israeli blockade authorities. And so the equipment sits on the docks of Ashdod.

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is, in a fit of populist bravado, now vowing to personally man an aid ship to Gaza, and is threatening to cut diplomatic (and military, and economic) relations with Israel.

The Israeli Inspector General will be launching a very limited inquiry of the May 31 incident on Sunday. His powers are quite constrained and previous IG reports have had minimal impact on Israeli policy. What the world diplomatic community is demanding is something far more penetrating and definitive. One might recall the "Mitchell Report" (headed by ex-Senator George Mitchell) which looked into the origins of the al-Aqsa Intifada of September 2000. The Sharon government of 2001 accepted this external review (overseen by an American crew of investigators) which Israel then submitted to; true, the Mitchell Report ended up splitting the middle, as it were, blaming both sides equally for the outbreak of the 2nd intifada, but it also led to a path of further negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians at a time of high tension. A similarly constructed American-based fact-finding mission splitting its time between Jerusalem and Istanbul might be the only viable "silver lining" in this awful situation. It will not dampen the fervor of the "Free Gaza" activists, who now demonize Israel to the point of outright Jew-hatred; it will not bring the Netanyahu government into proximity talks with Hamas; it will not facilitate a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement. What a US-sponsored investigatory commission can do is save the US-Israel-Turkish relationship from completely unravelling. George Mitchell is busy, the result of accepting President Obama's request to become the US special envoy to the region. So who can serve as the seasoned statesman to function as commission chair? Yep, you got it - Bill Clinton.

If I get this one right (a prediction like this is the pundit's equivalent of a perfect game), someone owes me a brand new Corvette.

Update, June 6, 8:20 pm: I just watched the 8 pm Israeli channel 2 evening news broadcast. Guess what? My prediction, made yesterday in this blog entry, that Bill Clinton might be the guarantor of some investigation, just got a solid confirmation by their diplomatic correspondent.

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