Readout from the Emergency Security Council Session on Israeli Raid of Gaza Bound Flotilla

Last night, the Security Council issued a “Presidential Statement” on the incident aboard the a Gaza-bound humanitarian convoy that was poised to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.  Ten people were killed in the raid and hundreds of nationals from Europe and Turkey (including several dignitaries) are being detained by Israel. 

The Security Council held an emergency session yesterday.  Judging from the readout, the session produced some very volatile moments. 

Turkey, which the New York Times describes as the “unnofficial sponsor of the convoy” happens to sit on the Security Council. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu issued a very harsh rebuke of Israel, it’s erstwhile “ally.”

Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, said he was distraught by the incident, which was a grave breach of international law and constituted banditry and piracy — it was “murder” conducted by a State, without justification.  A nation that followed that path lost its legitimacy as a respectable member of the international community.  The children of Gaza, meanwhile, did not know where their next meal was coming from; they had received no education and had no future.  Today, many humanitarian workers returned home in body bags.  Israel had “blood on its hands”.

Meanwhile, the United States, which is reliably on Israel’s side in these sorts of deliberations, was much milder in its criticism. Said Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations: “The United States is deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident last night aboard the Gaza-bound ships.” He then went on to criticize “direct delivery by sea” of humanitarian aid.    

As you can see, much different sentiments coming from Turkey and the United States.

Despite the tonal difference, there was apparently enough agreement in the council to reach consensus in the form of a presidential statement.  In diplomatic terms, a presidential statement is less than a “resolution” in the sense that it does not have the force of law.   It does, however, have political potency. Each of the 15 members of the Security Council have a veto over the process, meaning a presidential statement, once issued, has the unamimous backing of the council. 

This is what the United States, Turkey, and the rest of the council agreed upon yesterday.   You will note that Israel is not condemned directly, only “those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.” Presumably, that would also include attacks against the Israeli soldiers that boarded the ships.  The Times reports this concession was granted in order to secure American approval of the final statement.

Presidential Statement

“The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting form the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.

“The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.

“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

“The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009). In that context, they reiterate their grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stress the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza, as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

“The Security Council underscores that the only viable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement negotiated between the parties and re-emphasizes that only a two-State solution, with an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours, could bring peace to the region.

“The Security Council expresses support for the proximity talks and voices concern that this incident took place while proximity talks are under way and urges the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region.