Yesterday saw the publication of a report into Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, the
Hamas-run part of the Palestinian crypto-state, and the Israeli military’s raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for the coastal enclave last year.
The inquiry, headed by former judge Yaakov Turkel, argued that:
"The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip… was legal pursuant to the rules of international law" The inquiry defined the fight between Israeli forces and Hamas and other
Gaza-based militant groups as "an international armed conflict".
Critically, the panel’s two international observers – former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble and Brigadier-General Ken Watkin of Canada – both agreed with the report’s
conclusions and issued a statement saying: "We are glad the commission made ongoing efforts to hear both sides," adding "We have no doubt the commission was independent."
Despite this, everyone knows that the report is the beginning not the end of the debate, with additional reports to be issued by the Turkel Panel and the UN report.
Nor is Turkey likely to let the story die down. Hours after the report’s publication, the Turkish government said it was “appalled and dismayed” at the findings. The Turkish government
has also submitted its own report to the UN, arguing that Israel was acting illegally – though I don’t really see how Turkey’s view is in any way legally relevant (though it is politically
important). Turkey, after all, has repeatedly violated international law – for example when it invaded Iraq in pursuit of PKK rebels.
I remain of the view that Israel was well within its rights to intercept the ship – but nonetheless acted in an ill-advised manner. As Joseph Fouché said, "It’s worse than a crime; it’s
a mistake." How the mistakes were made will be the subject of Turkel’s next report.