Mitchell Reports | June 02, 2010
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>>> the white house today is welcoming israel 's decision to deport all of the activists who were arrested in the flotilla trying to reach gaza . but the white house still is pressuring israel or encouraging, we should say, israel to accept an independent investigation. israeli-led, but independent, with international participation. israel is resisting that. at this hour benjamin netanyahu , the prime minister, has just spoken to his nation. he has said that it was israel 's right to stop that flotilla. they claim that they were arms, not humanitarian aid . they have not proved that, of course. but claim they have every right to secure gaza from getting weapons and that this is the israeli right as a nation. joining me now, former u.s. ambassador to israel and head of foreign policy at brookings. thanks so much, martin, for joining us today. israel is resisting a lot of american pressure, and i've spoken to white house officials who say they know they can't press israel , but they have certainly encouraged israel not to ever let this happen again. that this has been a diplomatic disaster for israel . no matter what they were trying to achieve, they have not stopped boats in the past. they figured out ways to stop boats from reaching the blockade in the past. and this clearly has backfired. what can israel now do?
>> well, the first thing is they've got to complete the deportation of all of those who were on the flotilla. hopefully that will go ahead and be completed today. i think that will relieve the immediate tension in the turkish/israeli relationship. it's still going to have a long way to go. that will be clearly important. on the investigation, i think that's important just to stave off further action in the security council . and clearly president obama is pressing prime minister netanyahu to get ahead of the curve this time. not to repeat what happened. have an israeli investigation. have somebody from the quartet, perhaps tony blair , that's my idea, participate in that investigation. somebody credible that will give it an international flavor. and i think that israel will be well advised to do that and do that quickly. i don't think it has anything to fear from such an investigation and can gain a great deal in terms of chaneling all of this anger away from the israeli government and people.
>> what we were just showing was some israeli military video. and this has been an interesting case where there have been dueling videos. both sides were armed with video cameras , with the israeli military putting out video showing what they claim to be their soldiers under attack. the protesters had their own videos showing the protesters under attack. experts have shown from both sides very difficult to tell, today's video from the israeli military allegedly showing stun grenades thrown by the protesters. but our experts have looked at this, martin, it's very hard to say whether the stun grenades originated with the israeli military or the other side. that's exactly why an independent investigation is needed. that said, long term, this has gone on, this blockade of gaza , since 2007 . zextreme. doesn't israel in the face of all of this international condemnation have to find a way out of this box? that's something that you yourself made in a point to "the new york times" a couple of days ago. that we have to help israel as their ally find a way out of this dilemma. they cannot continue with this blockade in the light of all of the repercussions internationally.
>> i actually think they could continue with the blockade if they opened up the passages. and allowed the free flow of goods in and out of israel . people could flow through the egyptian border, which has now been opened, albeit temporarily. but i think that that would lift the sense of siege on gaza . that would do a lot to help israel 's public relations image, which has taken such a hit. i think it would also relieve the tension with the turks. but the blockade could then be justified, that is the naval blockade , on the grounds that that's how arms can be easily shipped in, if there isn't some control over the water access to gaza . it's all a question of doing something now that's credible that will help to remove the image of siege. i think, andrea, that there's a potential for a package deal here in which israel and hamas reach a de facto agreement. hamas has said in the past that it's ready for an informal cease fire . but a commitment from hamas that could be observed by israel . not to launch attacks on israel , to prevent attacks from other groups being launched from gaza , to close down the tunnels and prevent smuggling. and in return, the israelis would open the passages. and then the prisoner deal could be done so the israeli soldier that's been kidnapped by hamas would be released. in other words, you could put together a package in which both sides could claim that they'd achieved something. but it would get israel out of this box.
>> martin indyk , former u.s. ambassador to israel , head of foreign policy at brookings, thank you very much. we can hope