Israel’s serious concerns about legal action due to flotilla massacre

by Yaniv Reich on December 11, 2010

Israel has tried hard to justify its violent overtaking of the humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza last spring.  In particular, it has turned to convoluted, somewhat tortured interpretations of international law, which it claims provides legal cover for the brutal mission.  Israel was just enforcing a blockade according to maritime law, or so the argument goes, when its Gandhi-like commandos were mercilessly attacked by Muslim extremists.  This mantra has been accepted uncritically by the Israeli public.

But recent news belies the Israeli facade of legality.  According to new reports, Israel is currently in discussions with Turkey to bribe them into legal protection.  The Israelis have proposed financial compensation of $100,000 to each family of a murdered flotilla member.  In return, the Israelis are demanding Turkey’s assistance in indemnifying the Israeli Navy against lawsuits.  This is not the behavior of a party convinced of its legal position.  Rather, it is the behavior of a party that knows clearly that the Turks are able to raise this matter in international courts—and is worried because of it.

Official Israeli comments on this proposed deal are quite revealing:

“We made a compensation offer, and asked the Turks to do what needs to be done to address our legal concerns,” said an Israeli official involved in the negotiations.

Netanyahu’s adviser added that the two countries were discussing “the phrasing of a compromise that both sides can live with … [and] that will get our relations with Turkey back on track and remove the whole affair from the international agenda” [emphasis added].  “What is important to the Prime Minister,” he added, “is to protect the marines and commanders.”

If this is not an example of outright bribery intended to avoid compliance with international law, then I don’t know what is.

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