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Israel’s Turkey Problem *updated*

June 1, 2010

U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall (L) directs Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu (R) as he arrives to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department in Washington, June 1, 2010.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama seem to be doing everything they can to prevent further deterioration of the Turkey-Israeli relationship. Props to them- no easy task under the circumstances.

Turkey, for their part, have made it quite clear that they consider the attack on the flotilla a violation of international law and they are not going to let this incident ride quietly off into the sunset. In fact, prior to their meeting, the Turkish FM let the press know, in the polite but firm way that the Turks are famous for, that Turkey was very disappointed in the WH response yesterday:

Turkey’s foreign minister ratcheted up the pressure on the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Israel Tuesday, saying he was disappointed by what Ankara regards as a slow and tepid response by the international community to the raid by Israeli forces on a flotilla of Turkish aid ships.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he expected the U.S. to more strongly condemn the raid and to put pressure on Israel to release all civilians they are holding, points he would raise with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones in meetings Tuesday.

“I have to be frank: I am not very happy with the statement from Washington yesterday,” Mr. Davutoglu said in a meeting with a small group of reporters here. “We expect a clear condemnation.”

The firm stance taken by Turkey could further complicate an already delicate balancing act the Obama administration is conducting in the region, with the White House needing Turkish support for a new round of sanctions against Iran, among other regional priorities…


Mr. Davutoglu expressed disappointment that it took 11 hours for the U.N. Security Council to come up with a statement condemning the raid, a thinly-veiled criticism of the U.S., which worked behind the scenes to weaken some of its language.

“We expect full solidarity with us,” Mr. Davutoglu said of the U.S. response. “It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong, between legal and illegal.”
Journal Community

Mr. Davutoglu called the raid a “criminal act,” saying that because it occurred in international waters, the ships were sovereign territory that couldn’t be legally boarded. He said that the Turkish government had intervened with the nongovernmental organizations behind the flotilla before they approached Israel in hopes that a confrontation could be avoided, but couldn’t directly order the groups to desist.

He said that in discussions with the NGOs, the Turkish government had been led to believe the flotilla would approach only Gazan waters, where they would protest Israel’s blockade before moving on to Israeli ports to unload their aid…

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington, Monday, June 1, 2010.

The Turkish FM met with Secretary Clinton and although it had originally been scheduled to be open cameras, that was changed later this morning (understandable). Nonetheless, Secretary Clinton was asked about Turkey during one of her other meetings (excerpt dealing with that one issue):


SECRETARY CLINTON: We should sing Auld Lang Syne or something. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much even without doing it.

Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?

And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.

Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.

We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.

The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.

We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.

I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for taking this question.

Notice that the condemnation of the “acts” is very careful not to assign blame to either the Israelis or the activists. She does indicate willingness to have international participation in an investigation into what happened, something which the US apparently refused to allow into any statement or resolution yesterday at the U.N. (and which was a sticking point with Turkey).

This just came through this evening a little while ago:

Readout of the President’s Call with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

The President spoke today with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to express his deep condolences for the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli military operation against the Turkish-flagged ship bound for Gaza. The President told Prime Minister Erdogan that the United States is working in close consultation with Israel to help achieve the release of the passengers, including those deceased and wounded, and the ships themselves. He also affirmed the United States position in support of a credible, impartial, and transparent investigation of the facts surrounding this tragedy. The President affirmed the importance of finding better ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel’s security. He underscored the importance of a comprehensive peace agreement which establishes an independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state as the way to resolve the overall situation and the United States’ continuing commitment to achieving that goal by working closely with Turkey, Israel, and others with a stake in a more stable and secure Middle East.[emphasis mine]

That’s very different wording than we were hearing yesterday. We are definitely moving in the right direction.

UPDATE: Some of the European activists are returning home and are now allowed to talk to the press (Israel had ordered a complete media black-out). You can see their accounts here. Clearly there is a lot of he-said she said which is why there needs to be an independent investigation – not undertaken by Israel, but by an objective, independent body or commission. Israel has demonstrated it has no intention of being objective and they are already saying they will use greater force the next time around.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. pondskipper permalink
    June 1, 2010 7:57 pm

    I wonder if the Turkish FM also reminded Secretary Clinton that Turkey is a member of NATO and has just had her ships attacked by a non-NATO member. I doubt Turkey will go so far as to invoke Article 5 but it all adds to the pressure Turkey can bring.

    • June 1, 2010 8:18 pm

      OMG pondskipper you read his mind! Davutoglu DID say just that to the media prior to his meeting with Secy Clinton:

      “He [Davutoglu] said that Turkey, a NATO member, would bring up the issue soon at the security alliance’s council.

      “Citizens of member states were attacked by a country that is not a member of NATO,” he said. “I think you can make some conclusions out of this statement.”


      I can’t watch mainstream American media anymore, they are all circling their wagons around Israel and saying the activists had terrorist ties, that they were bringing in weapons and supplies to give to Hamas to attack Israel – never mind the ships were boarded and inspected in Turkey and even if they had gotten through the blockade they would still be inspected by Israel because Israel controls everything that goes in and out of Gaza. And as we speak, Israel has all the alleged terrorist supplies right now because the activists are in prison and Israel took control of the boat!

      I’m not going to pretend to know who the activists are or what they were carrying so I am not going to defend their cargo but until I see proof they are aligned with terrorists, I’m not buying into that meme. And do we in the U.S. really need to demonize every single person who expresses the belief that Palestinians are worthy of better treatment than cockroaches? I mean really, where is the humanity?

      I would never wish harm on any Israeli and certainly none of the commandos but it would seem that some people think that the pro- Palestinian activists deserve to be dead, end of story. And to me that is just inhumane- such a sentiment would be inhumane if it was directed at the Israelis and it is no less inhumane when directed at these activists.

  2. June 1, 2010 8:43 pm

    I just read the read-out of the State Dept. daily press briefing- I actually felt sorry for PJ Crowley- they pummeled him about the notion that Israel could conduct an independent investigation of itself. It’s not posted on the State Dept. website but it should be up shortly.

    Here is just a small excerpt:

    MR. CROWLEY: There have been some American citizens who have already departed Israel. I would just simply say I think we provided consular services for 11 today.

    QUESTION: Still in detention? They are – those – the 11 are still in detention?

    MR. CROWLEY: I think those 11 are still being held, yes.

    QUESTION: On the investigation —

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

    MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on. Again, one at a time.

    QUESTION: The other part of the question about did the foreign minister ask Secretary Clinton’s assistance in talking to the Israelis on Turkey’s behalf?

    MR. CROWLEY: The – well, the Turkish Government has been in touch with the Israeli Government. I think they have a couple of aircraft that have already arrived at Ben Gurion and they are understandably anxious to bring those who are killed, injured, but other Turkish citizens, back to Turkey. He stressed that a couple – a number of times. The Secretary indicated that we would convey Turkey’s desires to Israel and we have done that.

    QUESTION: What would participation look like in an investigation – can I (inaudible)?

    MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

    QUESTION: Because you said impartial and transparent and so on investigation, then an Israel investigation. Are those two separate things or are we supporting – or are you supporting just an Israeli investigation?

    MR. CROWLEY: We believe that Israel is in the best position to conduct an investigation of what transpired. And as we’ve said, we want to make sure it is prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent.

    QUESTION: Why?

    QUESTION: How would you determine that?

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) the fox watching the henhouse here. I mean, you’ve said there’s 11 Americans involved in this. What other —

    MR. CROWLEY: Well, I said there – no, let me clarify. I said that we’ve provided consular services to 11 Americans today.

    QUESTION: Okay. A foreign military boarded a ship in international waters, assaulted its passengers, handcuffed and beat some of those passengers, many of them humanitarian activists, and you’re saying you’re not prepared to send U.S. investigators. I mean, this is clearly a case of the fox watching the henhouse.

    MR. CROWLEY: Well, you’re making some presumptions in those – in your question.

    QUESTION: What’s the presumption? You said there’s 11 —

    MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no, you characterized what happened on the ship. We are still trying to ascertain precisely what happened on that ship.

    QUESTION: Then will you send investigators from the United States to do an impartial —

    MR. CROWLEY: As the Secretary indicated, we completely support what was described in the presidential statement last night in the UN and we are open to determine if there are opportunities for international participation in that investigation.

    QUESTION: Would that include sending the FBI?

    MR. CROWLEY: I’m not prepared to say what role the United States would have at this point.

    QUESTION: P.J. —

    QUESTION: P.J., this building has made it a point to criticize and to condemn human rights practices worldwide. These ships had aid, medical equipment including wheelchairs, building equipment. How essential is it right now that this equipment get to the Palestinians? How important is it that there – that these materials are now sort of confiscated and not within the hands of those who desperately need it? Is this useful right now?

    MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, I can’t say right now what the status of the material that was on the ship – certainly, again in the presidential statement, there was an encouragement, which we absolutely support, that that material be provided to the people of Gaza. As the Secretary said again today, we have pressed the Israelis to expand the amount of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and we will continue to work with the Israelis every day to try to make that happen.


    QUESTION: And could you just clarify a point of international law for me? Because the Israeli Government says that it’s well within their rights to do what they did yesterday. They cite the Paragraph 62-A of the San Remo Manual, whereas the Turkish foreign minister this morning was quite emphatic that this took place in international waters and Israel had no right to board these ships. What is the opinion of the United States Government on this —

    MR. CROWLEY: Well, not being an international lawyer, I’m not going to that from the podium. Clearly, that will be something that will be investigated, and I’m sure debated, as we go forward.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) — understanding that Israel was acting in self-defense?

    MR. CROWLEY: We certainly —

    QUESTION: Although —

    MR. CROWLEY: — understand that Israel has a right to self-defense. Given the situation in Gaza, it has been subject to rocket attacks in the past. There is a state of hostility between Israel and Hamas. But as to particular questions of international law, I’ll defer. That will be – clearly be something that will be thoroughly debated and investigated.

    QUESTION: You sound like you’re saying that Israel had the right to defend itself here because of Palestinian rockets.

    MR. CROWLEY: Israel has a right to self-defense, to be sure. That said, there is also a clear humanitarian need to provide material to the people of Gaza to help them subsist and rebuild, and we recognize that as well.

    QUESTION: In this incident, you see its right to self-defense being applied?

    MR. CROWLEY: I’m – as we’ve said, we regret the tragic loss of life here. We’ve called for a prompt, credible, transparent investigation. We are still trying to determine what happened on that ship. I’m not going to prejudge the investigation from here. ..

  3. HillaryFan permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:32 am

    I read a quote from an administration official that said the U.S. knows Israel’s side of the story is the truth and that the US will stand with Israel because no one else will.

    So I guess again, the whole world is wrong and the US and Israel are right?

    I guess if the situation were reversed and Israelis were on the flotilla, we’d be arguing that the people on the boats had an inalienable right to defend themselves, even using deadly force, against the commandos.

    It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

    I think the rest of the world is getting tired of us.

  4. Thain permalink
    June 2, 2010 10:44 am

    NATO has called for an investigation into the raid.

    Damn, I thought Obama had more principles than this, man! You don’t let commandos kill people in the middle of the night dude!

    Ireland is pissed too. They called Israel and told them they were sending the ship The Rachel Corrie and there were gonna be irish on board and Israel better lay the f*ck off! Don’t mess with Ireland man, they know a thing or two about terrorism and humanitarian crises.

    My boy Obama looks like a 12 year old caught in the middle of fighting parents. At least my girl Hill can take control. She’s just gotta lay off the “israel is always right” thing!

  5. June 2, 2010 1:36 pm

    The US may now protect Israel in the Security Council, but we’re running up our Chinese credit card to fund 2 wars, the bailouts, an entitlement system that needs revamping, the stimulus, the healthcare bill, … Not to mention that we borrow to gift Israel with $3bil each year, with more given through other means. Sustainable?? We’re borrowing and spending dysfunctionally while some other countries are rising. The future will be interesting, and Israel’s self-inflicted pariah status will not be helpful.

  6. June 22, 2013 4:34 pm

    whos the pretty lady next to him?

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