Lazy Susan does some work - against IsraelWhen last we left Lazy Susan, she was so busy partying in Washington that she forgot to come to New York to vote against making Iran a member of the United Nations Commission on Women. Now, Rice has gotten to work, and we surely would have been better off if she had stayed busy with the parties.
Rice got her boss to pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to a UN probe of the Gaza flotilla incident. Netanyahu thus sets the horrific precedent of Israel agreeing for the first time to any kind of UN investigation of an IDF operation. Rice described the matter to Obama as "critical to US interests at the UN."
Although Netanyahu only agreed to the probe on Monday, the chairman of the committee has already been announced.
In today’s U.N. announcement, Ban Ki-moon named former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer to head his inquiry. Palmer is closely associated with one of the U.N.’s top officials, Helen Clark, who is currently chief of the U.N. Development Program and chair of the U.N. Development Group. Clark was Palmer’s deputy during his time in office and, after becoming prime minister herself, named him to a number of important posts. U.N. officials clearly believe that Palmer shares, or will be influenced by, the biases of those who appointed him. In the midst of the Gaza war in January 2009, Clark blamed Israel for the conflict saying the impact of Hamas rocket attacks “has been but a tiny fraction of that of the Israeli strikes on Gaza.” In August 2006 during the Lebanon war, Clark said she found it “hard to believe” that the accidental Israeli bombing of a U.N. observation post in Lebanon was anything but deliberate.Ban also announced that outgoing President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe would be vice chairman. Anne Bayefsky adds:
Even Ban Ki-moon today called the development “unprecedented”. The U.N. team will be second-guessing the actions taken in self-defense by a democratic state, governed by the rule of law and at war with a terrorist entity committed to its destruction -- on account of an undisputed figure of nine deaths. In the course of war, hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have been killed by American and coalition forces, while undemocratic regimes regularly and deliberately murder thousands, without a peep from the U.N.Evelyn Gordon adds:
If the president tried the same stunt in America, ordering U.S. generals to report to Ban Ki-moon and company and to seek their seal of approval, the uproar would be deafening. But this president has evidently embraced the defining attribute of the U.N. approach to Israel -- double-standards.
Obama’s support for the U.N. investigation is part of a major realignment of U.S. foreign policy to synchronize it with an organization dominated by Islamic interests. Within 24 hours of the flotilla incident, the U.S. agreed to a hasty Security Council presidential statement on May 31 that called for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials let it be known that “credible” to this administration meant credible in the eyes of the U.N. In the Israeli case, the United States is prepared to make the requisites of self-defense subservient to the U.N. mob.
Today’s announcement does nothing to stop the concurrent U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigation of exactly the same flotilla incident. In June the Council launched an allegedly “independent international fact-finding mission” with a mandate to report on what it had already decided was Israel’s “outrageous attack.” Rice disingenuously claimed today that “The United States expects that the Panel[‘s]…work will be the primary method for the international community to review the incident, obviating the need for any overlapping international inquiries.”
The secretary-general’s announcement says nothing of the kind and she knows full well that the secretary has no power to stop the Council from proceeding, since it is run by states and not the bureaucracy.
Rice also said that the secretary general’s inquiry “will receive and review the reports” of Israeli and Turkish national investigations. For all intents and purposes, therefore, the Israeli investigation has been rendered irrelevant. The international figures who took risks by agreeing to participate on the Israeli inquiry could hardly be blamed for believing they have been double-crossed.
The details of the Ban investigation, including its mandate, have yet to be ironed out. But Ban’s announcement sets a mid-September deadline for an interim report, obviously intending to minimize any further Israeli negotiating room. Regardless of whatever piece of paper materializes,,in practice Israel will not be able to retain control over the scope of the inquiry, or who might be forced to testify, or what information will need to be submitted to satisfy the U.N.
After all, I haven’t noticed Ban suggesting UN probes of any other country’s military operations — say, Turkish operations against the Kurds, Iran’s attacks on its own citizens, coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, or African Union forces in Somalia, to name just a few of the dozens of armies engaged in combat worldwide every single day. Many of these operations result in far more civilian casualties than Israel’s flotilla raid did — even if you deny the evidence provided by video footage of the raid and assume these casualties actually were civilians rather than combatants.It may be too late to make that clear to Obama. After all, the probe has already been announced. Moreover, you can't really expect American supporters of Israel to be more Israeli than Netanyahu.
But aside from setting a terrible precedent, this probe clearly has one, and only one, purpose: to excoriate Israel. Ban’s proposed format is one representative each from Israel and Turkey, one from a traditional Israeli ally (the U.S.), and one from a country traditionally hostile to Israel (New Zealand), plus one UN representative. Since the UN representative will certainly be in the anti-Israel camp, Israel would be outnumbered even if the U.S. representative took its side.
But in reality, the U.S. representative will almost certainly join the anti-Israel camp — because Rice’s view, as reported by the unnamed senior diplomats Haaretz cited, is that facilitating Ban’s probe is “critical to U.S. interests at the UN.”
Granted, it’s hard to imagine what U.S. interest such a probe could possibly serve (Rice couldn’t protest Iran’s inclusion on the women’s commission without it?). But whatever this alleged interest is, if furthering it requires investigating Israel alone, of all the countries engaged in military activity worldwide, it clearly also requires the probe to conclude that Israel was guilty of some heinous crime. Any goal that requires singling Israel out as uniquely suspect clearly can’t be served by ultimately acquitting it.
This is first and foremost Israel’s problem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to develop a spine. But American supporters of Israel have a role to play as well. They must make it clear to Obama that putting Israel in the UN dock is a red line.
In Monday's statement, Netanyahu said that Israel had decided to be a part of the probe since it had "nothing to hide."The UN about truth? You've got to be kidding. The factual truth about the flotilla is already out there for the world to see - on YouTube. And the world has been watching it and the furor died down.
"The opposite is true," the premier said, adding that it was in "Israel's national interest to ensure that the factual truth regarding the flotilla incident would be exposed for the world to see," saying truth was "the principle we are promoting through this decision."
And Netanyahu alone cannot be blamed entirely for this bad move. The seven senior ministers in the cabinet voted in favor of the move (we're not told what the vote was - can I guess that Barak, Meridor, Netanyahu and one other - probably Yishai - were the four votes in favor, and that Yaalon, Begin and Lieberman opposed?). So they get some of the blame too.
Was the price for Obama backing Netanyahu on direct talks with the 'Palestinians'? If so, it was way, way too high.