Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Israel and the flotilla, day two (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. EDT: The Guardian is reporting that the Israelis are now being accused of sabotaging two of the ships in the flotilla a few days before they were raided.

1st UPDATE: 11:15 a.m. EDT: Turkey's prime minister has ratcheted up the rhetoric, calling the Israeli military action a "bloody massacre."

Meanwhile, air strikes into Israel from Gaza have been met with missile strikes from Israel. Reuters reports that five are dead in Gaza.

Meanwhile, at least one blogger is urging that everyone carefully assess the video that suggests the Israelis began the assault on the people aboard the ship. He says the video -- provided primarily by al-Jazeera might actually support the Israelis' contention that they responded in self-defense.

ORIGINAL POST: Today was supposed to be the day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama. And a necessary meeting it would have been, considering the obvious friction that has developed between them.

Instead, Mr. Netanyahu is home, dealing with the growing fallout from Monday's Israeli military action against a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza. Nine people died as a result of the raid.

The reaction from Washington remains, in my opinion, calm but stern. CBS News' White House correspondent Mark Knoller "tweets" that the "State Dept says the flotilla incident "underscores need to move ahead quickly with negotiations (for) comprehensive peace in the region."" Nevertheless, the international condemnation of Israel complicates any U.S.-led effort to bring peace to the Middle East. That is sure to anger the Obama White House.

The political relationship between Israel and Turkey also has ruptured, as the flotilla that was attacked was launched from Turkey.

Meanwhile, Egypt has chosen to open one of its borders with Gaza. The symbolic and political importance of that decision is noted in this excerpt from the same Reuters' report highlighted at the beginning of this paragraph:

It is the only point on Gaza's borders that is not fully controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas Islamists, who are allied to Egypt's opposition, seized control of Gaza three years ago.

A permanent opening of the crossing, which lies above a stretch of desert frontier riddled by hundreds of smuggling tunnels, would be a major boost for Hamas and a blow to efforts by Israel and its Western allies to cripple the Islamists.

One of the ancillary issues associated with Monday's raid -- a sizable number of journalists who were on board the flotilla remain in Israeli custody. The International Federation of Journalists has called for their immediate release.

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