Border Control / Did someone say Goldstone?
Will the blood spilled on the flotilla's decks flush away the Goldstone report, or carry it to The Hague?
The political leadership in Jerusalem took into account that conflict with the peace activists in the flotilla to Gaza would not contribute to the health of relations with Turkey. Since in any case relations with the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had plummeted below Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's sofa level, any protest anticipated from Ankara made no special impression on the decision-makers. The government ministries and Israel Defense Forces assumed that with good public relations it would be possible to deal with the confrontation's effect on Israel's relations with friendlier countries.
The large amount of blood spilled on the decks has made a diplomatic disaster of the flotilla, which is liable to put the Goldstone report in the shade. Or maybe the other way around - it could once again direct the spotlights on the grave report about Operation Cast Lead.
In an interview to Haaretz ("Richard Goldstone has no regrets about report on Gaza war," May 6 ) Judge Goldstone noted that his report is slated to come up for discussion soon in the United Nations General Assembly and in the European Parliament. The use of live fire against people who tried to break the prolonged blockade Israel has imposed in the Gaza Strip will attract the diplomatic fire on the blockade chapter in the report. This says the continuing and consistent blockade is tantamount to collective punishment and the denial of employment, housing, water and free movement from the inhabitants of Gaza can be considered a crime against humanity.
In that same interview, Goldstone again urged the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch an independent investigation in order to wipe the blemish of Operation Cast Lead off what little remains of Israel's good name in the world, and to remove the issue from the agenda.
Before then, in January this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent her assistant for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner, to try to persuade the top governmental and military echelons to investigate at least five serious incidents that occurred during Operation Cast Lead. The government, however, hoped the murky wave inundating the attack on Gaza would recede and the world (including the Palestinians ) would drown in new concerns. In order to justify the blockade, it barricaded itself in behind the cruel treatment by Hamas of Gilad Shalit and his family.
The American administration and the European Union countries are once again pressing the authorities in Israel to change the rules of passage for goods on the Gaza border. However, Jerusalem has preferred to hide behind "security considerations" and contented itself with tightfisted gestures.
The bloodshed at sea will make it difficult for United States President Barack Obama to prevent the Goldstone report from ending up at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. This coming Friday will be the first anniversary of the Cairo speech in which the president spoke about a "humanitarian crisis in Gaza" and added that it is not contributing to Israel's security.
In that same speech, Obama said: "No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons." He also said he hoped all the countries of the Middle East would comply with the conditions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
For the attention of the senior source in the prime minister's retinue who complained this week about the United States' support for the call at the nuclear conference to Israel to join the treaty and diagnosed "a pervasive change by the American administration on the nuclear issue, at the international issue and also with regard to Israel."
How miserable the gimmick at the Prime Minister's Office referring foreign correspondents to the menu on the Foreign Ministry website of a luxury restaurant in Gaza looks now. That was the creme de la sour cream in Israel's hasbara (public relations or propaganda ) recipe. Among other things it is possible to find on the website a wealth of data aimed at proving that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is not all that bad. It seems they have a not very flattering opinion of journalists and they believe, apparently, that the media will swallow this whole and become convinced there is no blockade of Gaza, and the whole flotilla is nothing but a publicity campaign by Israel-haters.
According to paragraph 8 of the document, in the first quarter of this year 3,676 truckloads of food crossed from Israel into Gaza. Is that a lot or a little? According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report of three years ago, before Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza, 36,491 truckloads crossed into Gaza during that quarter. That is to say - 10 times as much. To be precise, it must be noted that before the age of the blockade, 17 percent of the trucks going into Gaza carried foodstuffs, as compared to 85 percent today. This figure explains the extent of the shortage in Gaza of materials for local industry, construction and agriculture.
Paragraph 15 relates that in 2009 more than 105 million liters of fuel was transferred to the power station in Gaza. Indeed, an impressive figure. Until you read the OCHA report. There it says this amount of fuel constitutes only about two-thirds of the amount needed for the full operation of the power station. Therefore inhabitants of Gaza are enjoying the use of electricity for 12 to 14 hours a day. According to the report, since the start of this year 27 people were killed in Gaza and 37 injured by exploding generators, inhaling carbon dioxide and fires.
Interruptions in the functioning of the pumps are causing water shortages and pollution. The sewage treatment plant needs 14 days of continuous electricity supply and as a result 60 million to 80 million liters of raw sewage are being only partially treated and sent flowing into the Mediterranean Sea (some of this harvest is reaching the Ashkelon shore ).