Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Posts Tagged ‘Gaza

Your Daily Reminder That Hamas Can’t Govern

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While there is worry about the revolutions in the Middle East turning too Islamist, at the end of the day, governments are only successful if they govern. And there’s still no evidence that Hamas can do that:

Whatever the reason for Hamas’s obvious lack of restraint in recent weeks, it is not helping the party’s reputation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Its popularity among Palestinians continues to decline: A mid-March opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research had Hamas support at a mere 33 percent of people in Gaza and 21 percent in the West Bank. Fatah, on the other hand, enjoys 42 percent support in Gaza and 39 percent in the West Bank. Hamas’s brutal crackdown on national unity rallies in Gaza on March 15, including the killing of at least one female protester, further discredited the organization. Perhaps Hamas hopes that another confrontation with Israel would bolster its foundering domestic credentials.

This probably has something to do with the increasing attacks on Israeli citizens. Of course, there’s no evidence Fatah is particularly skilled at governing either. At some point, there has to be some sort of economic development plan for Palestinians in the Wst Bank and Gaza. But it’s not clear there’s anywhere near the willpower necessary to do that in Israel or the United States, sadly.

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Written by John Whitehouse

March 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm

In Which I Discuss Israeli Motives

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One of the weird things to me about the flotilla attack is that the motives for Israel to act in the particular way they did are unclear.

They clearly at some point would have to do something regarding the flotilla (I doubt “let it go unimpeded” was an option – there is an embargo on Gaza). But one would think they could have tried o divert it or blockade it or just to damage the ship enough to not continue further.

Why did they attack the ship 72 miles out to sea? (This does presume, of course, that there is a logical reason).

One potential answer is “because they can.” In this view, Israel can and must respond as forcefully as possible to those whose interest oppose it (I deliberately am not using the word enemies here; I don’t think it’s accurate to say the flotilla was Israel’s enemy the same way, for instance, Iran is). This is somewhat reminiscent of Eisenhower’s massive retaliation in practice.

The other line of thinking is the Lusitania argument. The Lusitania was a passenger ship famously sunk by a U-boat during World War I. There was great outrage at the time over sinking a passenger ship during a war and killing civilians. The Germans claimed the ship was carrying weapons. In the end the Germans were proven right.

The question, therefore, if one accepts this line of thinking, is what sort of weapons or munitions would be in a hold that Israel would fear be on that boat where they would have to intercept it 72 miles out at sea and not merely disable it or turn it away first. The list is not long, but one immediately thinks of some great weapon. Indeed, politicians like those now in power in Israel have been quite open about such fears.

There are problems with this theory. One, the first theory (because they can) strikes me as more plausible. Second, this would indicate a staggering failure of intelligence on the part of the Israelis.

This is a cautionary tale .. not of a robust self-defense as some would claim, but rather a cautionary tale of abandoning any diplomacy. Israel can do better. (Although, to be fair, a lot of countries could do better, and a lot of governments – including that of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – could do better as well.)

See here and here for more information.

Written by John Whitehouse

June 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Foreign Policy

Tagged with , , , ,

In which I discuss “international waters”

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All this week I’m going to take a look at the Israeli attack and international law, piece by piece. Why in parts? One, to save my sanity. Two, to break the matter down into parts digestible by people without a law degree. (Hopefully).

(By the way: I should add that the worst part of this attack for Israel is not any judgment under international law per se, but rather the extreme chilling effect it would have on any possible Iranian sanctions. Others have said this long before I.)

So to start: One fact circulating regarding the Israeli attack on the flotilla is that it occurred in international waters; many people have not said what that means.

Here is a description from the Washington Post of what the Turkish Foreign Minister said:

Davutoglu displayed a map showing that the attack took place 72 nautical miles off the coast of Israel, far beyond the 12-mile sovereign border. He said that the “Israelis believe they are above any law” but that they would be held to account by Turkey and the international community. He likened the actions of the Israeli government to “pirates off the coast of Somalia,” not a civilized nation, and ridiculed Israeli claims that some in the flotilla were linked to al-Qaeda.

[ . . . ]

But he said that in Turkey’s view, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has full authority under the statement to order an international probe. He noted that the incident took place in international waters so Israel has no right to declare it can conduct its own inquiry.

“We will not be silent about this,” he said. “We expect the United States to show solidarity with us. . . . I am not very happy with the statements from the United States yesterday.”

I’m going to take Dautoglu at his word regarding the 72 mile fact for two reasons; one, it is not in dispute by anyone I have seen (including Secretary-General Moon), and second that there is no reason to fudge the numbers dramatically.

The twelve mile rule regarding international waters has been set for a while – since the 1960s when a group of countries led by Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Venezuela moved to change territorial seas from 3 to 12 miles. (Which is what the Law of the Sea defines the limit as well).

Indeed Israel too claims 12 miles of territorial waters – just see this article about a foreign submarine that entered within 12 miles of shore in 2004. (see also here).

However, territorial waters is not the same as an exclusive economic zone. We’ll start with that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I could really use a map of where the incident occurred if anyone has it.

Written by John Whitehouse

June 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm