Daily Israel Report

Former Amb.: Israel Must Take Tough Line With Turkey

Former Ambassador to the US and France says J'lem must vigorously campaign against Turkey's Mavi Marmara indictments
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/29/2012, 11:00 PM

Bodrum, Turkey
Bodrum, Turkey
Flash 90

Former ambassador to the United States and France, Dr. Meir Rosenne, called on Israel to vigorously lobby world opinion against Turkey's indictment of four former IDF commanders over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

"In the past we tried to downplay the importance of issuing international arrest warrants against Israeli officials," he said. Like, "Ariel Sharon in Belgium and England, or Almog."

But, he cautions, "If Turkey gets an international arrest warrant, it may demand all Interpol member states issue arrest warrents for Israeli officers, at least in the short term."

Interpol, headquartered in Lyon, France has 190 member countries and is the second largest intergovernmental organization in the world after the United Nations, in terms of number of member states.

The organization issues over 3,000 Red Notices - or calls for all members to issue arrest warrants and extradite the named countries - per year. Of these, roughly 25% result in arrest and extradition.

Despite its stance of political neutrality, Interpol has often been criticized for its role in arrests and deportations that detractors say are clearly politically motivated.

Turkey, seeking to pursue a diplomatic feud with Israel over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which 9 of its nationals were killed when they attempted to lynch IDF personnel who boarded the craft, would bring a new and controversial dimension to abuses of Interpol's Red Notice system.

Rosenne believes that Israel should never hold back when the spectre of such abuses rises, "Israel should take a strong line, and see if the Turks dare to seek notices for officers."

Rosenne warned, "If Israel does not take this seriously, the indictements and arrest warrants issued by Turkey could cost us dearly. If IDF officers begin to say to themselves 'doing my job could result in a situation where I cannot go abroad, so why should we serve?'"

"As the first step, we should issue a warning to Israeli citizens not travel to Turkey. Don't give them the money. Stop answering ads for luxury hotels and pools there," he suggested.

Then he argued, "We must spread the conclusions of the UN Palmer Report on the Mavi Marmara far and wide. It established unequivocally that Israel had a legal right to stop the Marmara after the siege imposed on Gaza illegal.

Last September, the United Nation's 105-page "Palmer Report" concluded that Israel's naval blockade of Hamas in Gaza is both reasonable and legal, and said the IHH – the Turkish aid group that primarily organized the 2010 flotilla - had lain in wait for the commandos.

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report says in its opening paragraphs. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

“There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH," the report also said.

Nonetheless, the report faulted the IDF for "excessive and unreasonable" force, saying Israel should have issued warnings closer to the moment of action and should have first turned to nonviolent options.

The conclusion utterly ignored that the commandos who boarded the vessel were armed with less-than-lethal 'pneumatic guns' and that 'live fire' was only employed when those proved insufficient to stop the threat to life and limb they faced.

According to the IDF – and video of the incident – the lynch mob fired on the soldiers, attacked them with metal clubs and knives, and threw one of them into the sea. It was only when the soldiers feared for their lives that they employed deadly force.

Three of the soldiers were recognized as being disabled following the confrontation.

Turkey rejected the findings of the Palmer Report amid a furious fusillade of bellicose rhetoric – including threatening to send warships to violate Israel’s naval blockade – and reduced diplomatic ties with Israel.