Release the UN Report?

[Note: AFP reports that a French yacht carrying 12 pro-Palestinian activists hoping to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza was on Thursday blocked in Crete by the Greek coast guard when it stopped to refuel.]

[Note: AFP reports that a French yacht carrying 12 pro-Palestinian activists hoping to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza was on Thursday blocked in Crete by the Greek coast guard when it stopped to refuel.]

The United Nations is preparing to release its report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla debacle – debacle for Turkey, apparently. Israel and Turkey received advance copies of the report several weeks ago, but its public release was delayed because Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan didn’t want it out before the June election – which he won, but not in a landslide. Now Turkey is feverishly trying to bury it, including talking to Israel about a “joint statement” that according to The Jerusalem Post would not parse blame for the incident but would instead look to the future.

The UN commission on the flotilla was headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and co-chaired by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, both fair men with no political bias against Israel. Perhaps that’s why knowledgeable insiders say the report details the relationship between the Turkish government and the IHH – an Islamic charity with terrorist ties. And while admonishing Israel for a “disproportionate use of force,” the report accepts Israel’s contention that force was used in self-defense and upholds the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The report recommends that Israel pay reparations to the families of the deceased – something Israel had already committed to do.

So, coming off its 2011 flotilla victory, Israel sits in the driver’s seat regarding an activity of the United Nations. Aside from reveling in the oddity of it, what should Israel do?

Let the report emerge over Turkey’s objection and let it do what damage it may? After all, Turkey did actually foment the violence that killed nine Turkish and American citizens and wound Israeli sailors. Why should Israel help Turkey hide it? What would that mean to Turkish-Israeli relations in the long run – either way? Are there going to be Turkish-Israeli relations in the long run? Turkey has not only excoriated Israel in the international arena, but has been turning its population against Israel with propaganda and lies. Turkey has helped Iran break UN economic sanctions – how long before it pays a price? And what price is fair?

On the other hand, Turkey appears to be reconsidering some of its most egregious policies – events in Libya and Syria have made its “no enemies” position untenable, and it has a great appetite for Israeli weapons and systems, not to mention Israeli tourism. The Turkish government has forced more than one Iranian plane to land and uncovered shipments of arms headed for Syria. Turkey provided no “official” support to the 2011 flotilla and a Turkish inspection denied flotilla organizers’ accusation of Israeli sabotage to one of their boats. (There were some suspicions voiced that the organizers sabotaged their own boat, knowing casualties would be blamed on Israel.)

What are Israel’s interests? Defense Minister Ehud Barak has a point when he says there are four key countries in the region – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran – and Israel has limited relations with two of them and no relations with the others. Israel likes the profits from high tech and military sales to Turkey, but is it arming an adversary? On the other hand, Israel’s burgeoning relationship with Greece pulls it toward Europe, possibly a better fit for a Western, liberal democracy. The Greek government certainly proved to be a friend over the weekend. Does Israel have to choose? Can Israel live only to its West?

Israeli and Turkish diplomats are apparently huddled over the wording of a statement that would sound in Turkish like Israel apologized but not when read in Hebrew. Whatever path Israel chooses, it would be wise to insist on an “end of conflict; end of claims” clause with Turkey as it insists it will have with the Palestinians.

The presumption of friendship should be over.