Deadly Israeli raid, calls for inquiry

June 1, 2010 1:36:16 PM PDT
For a country that prides itself on its political strategy, what a turn of events for Israel.

The activists - hundreds of them - who boarded ships bringing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza, clearly wanting to do more than just bring help to peeps who are doing without. They wanted to challenge the blockade.

Israel - much admired even by some adversaries for its strategic thinking - could have chosen 47 different ways to approach the flotilla. It could have waited till they got within 20 miles of the Israeli shore, rather than attack in the open, international waters, more than 70 miles from shore. It could have escorted the ships to land, have them unload the supplies, and then escort them out. It could have .... Fill in the blank. There were lots of alternatives than to board the boats like pirates, get attacked and then attack back, killing 9 civilians.

Now, the world is rising up - and it's not always the usual suspects. Even the Pope - who, yes has quite an anti-Semitic personal history but as leader of the Church has been an ardent supporter of Israel - condemned the Jewish state, choosing this day after the attack to call the treatment of Palestinians "political injustice." His declaration was the headline of his position paper to Bishops, due in October.

More than 600 people are still detained in Israel, and it's unclear when they'll be released. Nearly four dozen have been deported, including Ed Peck, a career diplomat who was once deputy director of Pres. Reagan's terrorism task force.

"While we were in Israel," said Peck, "we were totally incommunicado, handled as criminals. I would suggest people give a thought to the fact that I was deported for illegally entering Israel, but I did not enter voluntarily. I was taken there by people who took over our ship in international water, which is piracy if you will."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to meet with Pres. Obama today at the White House, now finds himself fighting a crisis that, some say, is the result of his hard-line stand with the Palestinians. But perhaps now a softening. Today he offered that "we regret the loss of life. We regret any of the violence that was there."

That's a contrast with his stance yesterday, defending the Naval operation and offering mostly that his guys were attacked when they boarded the ships.

Will the blockade be finally ended? We'll see. There is growing pressure to be sure.

One of the few politicians in outspoken support of Israel's actions is Sarah Palin. She calls the aid ships a "pro terror convoy," and a "dangerous publicity stunt."

The operation, she writes, "was designed to provoke Israel, not to provide supplies to Palestinians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza."

Palin's expressing the sentiment that Israel had a legal right to raid in international waters because it felt threatened. But someone should have sent the former Governor a message that Hamas - for better or worse - was democratically elected by Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the U.S. finds itself in a particularly thorny political situation. Pres. Obama hasn't condemned Israel for the attack, although he "regrets" the loss of life. He and his Secretary of State have backed the U.N. Security Council's call for a full investigation, but the White House wants Israeli involvement in that investigation.

Stay tuned.

We'll have the latest on the crisis, including dueling demonstrations by supporters and critics of Israel in New York, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, Mayor Bloomberg says he's sending 400 New York City workers to Haiti for two weeks, to help build a community emergency response program in that beleaguered country. It's a noble effort, but it comes at a time when the Mayor has slashed budgets, cut services and laid off employees. Is the timing for this right?

And we'll have the latest on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder said there's a criminal investigation that's been going on for weeks ? and they're looking at a host of violations, including the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Migratory Bird Act.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast - including some thunderstorms rolling through tonight - and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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