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The UN report on last year's flotilla to Gaza is a masterpiece of good intentions. The investigative committee made an enormous effort to distribute blame in a balanced way. They expertly explained how it happened that nine Turkish civilians were tragically killed in the Israel Defense Forces' operation, and placed responsibility on both Turkey and Israel.

But the pages of the Palmer Report also scream of stupidity, arrogance, and diplomatic and military failures. While the report states that Israel's blockade of Gaza does not contravene international law, it avoids a determination as to whether such a blockade is the most efficient and moral means of fighting. The IDF action was defined as "excessive and unreasonable" use of force, and that the loss of life was "unacceptable." As for Turkey, the report said it had not done enough to prevent the flotilla from setting out, and the flotilla activists had acted "recklessly." The report recommended that Israel pay compensation to the families of the dead and issue an appropriate statement of regret. The flotilla affair - not the report - have brought relations between Turkey and Israel to such a nadir that they now see each other as hostile countries. The glorious past and deep kinship between the two peoples has crumbled to dust, and they now both intend to strike each other with the report. Each has begun to express its objections to the report, and to point out slivers of justification that will work in its favor. But these will not be able to defrost the glacial state of relations, which froze even deeper with Turkey's decision to expel Israel's ambassador, downgrade diplomatic relations to the level of second secretary and suspend military contracts. Israel, the number of whose allies in the world and the region is dwindling, must not refuse to accept responsibility, replacing an essential ally with worthless prestige.

Turkey's sharp, albeit hasty response, still leaves room for Israeli diplomatic reason. Israel should express regret, as it should have done before the report was issued, pay compensation and restore relations. That is a small price to pay for such a strategic asset as relations with Turkey.