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The Incoherent Response to the Flotilla

As I previously noted, it made no sense for Mahmoud Abbas to root for a relaxation of the Gaza blockade. In the furor of the moment and with Obama refusing to give Israel a robust vote of confidence, he no doubt felt compelled to throw his lot in with the Israel-bashers. But as David points out, we now know that privately he was singing a different tune:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position. …

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Yet Obama has remained virtually mute on this point, allowing the anti-blockade furor to grow at the UN and among Israel’s enemies. Now we know that only Hamas — and 54 liberal congressmen, including Joe Sestak — wants the blockade lifted. But still, the “international community” criticizes Israel for enforcing the blockade if force is needed.

Meanwhile, Bibi has announced an inquiry into the flotilla incident:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head the committee of inquiry into the raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.At a meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said he had notified US President Barack Obama of the plans.

So far, we’ve heard no endorsement of the Israel-only inquiry from Obama, nor does it appear that the U.S. is inclined to participate formally or provide assistance to it. Obama was merely informed.

So where are we? Obama continues to hedge and equivocate, unwilling to publicly endorse the blockade that his Fatah clients desperately need to remain in place. Obama continues to search for an international element to the investigation — trying, as he always does, to show his bona fides to the Arab world (“See, America doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself!”) without unleashing a furious backlash by Congress and Jewish groups, who are continually assured that of course we won’t single out Israel or allow a Goldstone-type inquest. But what do those assurances actually mean? Obama broke new ground with the UN statement, refused to insist that Turkey and the terrorists be the subject of an inquest, and signaled to Iran once again that there is distance between the U.S. and Israel.

We have, for the upteenth time, demonstrated incoherence and uncertainty on the Middle East. In the void left by an assertive U.S. and a warm U.S.-Israel relationship, in steps Iran and its soul mates, Turkey and Syria. As a result of all this “smart diplomacy,” the Middle East is spinning out of control and edging closer to conflagration.



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