Flotilla in a Mine Field

From portions of the draft reported on already, it is clear that the UN committee investigating last year's flotilla to Gaza is not dealing solely with the dry facts.

The final report of the UN committee investigating last year's flotilla to Gaza has not yet been published. But from portions of the draft reported by Barak Ravid in Haaretz on Wednesday, it is clear that the committee, headed by Geoffrey Palmer, is not dealing solely with the dry facts. The committee is trying to present an "effective" truth - one meant not to hang the guilty parties, whoever they may be, but to help Turkey and Israel restore their relationship.

Turkey and Israel reportedly received similar doses of blame and justification. Israel used excessive force, the draft says, while Turkey did not do enough to prevent the flotilla. Israel was entitled to intercept the flotilla far from its borders, but the report recommends that it express regret over the tragic result: the killing of nine Turkish nationals.

Those seeking to justify themselves, both in Israel and in Turkey, will presumably find everything they desire in the report. Its wording will very likely give considerable leeway to anyone who wants to interpret it as support for the justice of his position or legitimization of his actions. But the very attempt to seek justification, or to treat the report as an indictment, contains a dangerous potential for further deterioration in the two countries' relationship, which has recently put forth new shoots.

Israel and Turkey, it seems, have thoroughly grasped the extent of the damage the flotilla caused them both, and Israel would do well to apply the lessons learned from this incident in its handling of the peace activists now seeking to arrive by air. At the same time, the challenges facing both states in light of the upheavals in the region, the understanding that their cooperation has importance far beyond tourism ties or sales of military equipment, and the historic ties that have provided a solid foundation for their relationship are all far more important than the flotilla affair.

Thus with or without the report, it is vital for both sides to make another effort and stretch their creativity a little further to reach an agreement over the questions of an apology, responsibility and compensation. That is the only way to ensure that the report brings an end to the flotilla affair rather than causing its toxic resurrection.