THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that senior Obama administration officials have been telling foreign governments that the administration intends to support an effort next week at the United Nations to set up an independent commission, under UN auspices, to investigate Israel’s behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident. The White House has apparently shrugged off concerns from elsewhere in the U.S. government that a) this is an extraordinary singling out of Israel, since all kinds of much worse incidents happen around the world without spurring UN investigations; b) that the investigation will be one-sided, focusing entirely on Israeli behavior and not on Turkey or on Hamas; and c) that this sets a terrible precedent for outside investigations of incidents involving U.S. troops or intelligence operatives as we conduct our own war on terror.
While UN Ambassador Susan Rice is reported to have played an important role in pushing for U.S. support of a UN investigation, the decision is, one official stressed, of course the president’s. The government of Israel has been consulting with the U.S. government on its own Israeli investigative panel, to be led by a retired supreme court justice, that would include respected international participants, including one from the U.S. But the Obama administration is reportedly saying that such a “kosher panel” is not good enough to satisfy the international community, or the Obama White House.
Kristol’s report comes just as Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed Israel’s representatives the world over that there were never any humanitarian supplies or equipment aboard the Mavi Marmara, where Israeli commandos were ambushed by armed mercenaries posing as peace activists. Of related interest are the videotaped statements of two Mavi Marmara crew members showing that preparations for a violent confrontation with IDF forces were put in motion about two hours before the boarding began, when the Israeli Navy hailed the ship and told it to halt; according to the statements, the atmosphere aboard the Mavi Marmara; IHH operatives on the main deck were cutting the ship’s railings with metal disks they had brought with them into lengths suitable to be used as clubs.
Despite outward appearances, the Obama administration is not clueless. It has plenty of clues. Let’s just say now is a good time to meditate further on Dorothy Rabinowitz’s Wall Street Journal column on “The alien in the White House.”
Recall that this week Obama himself spoke about an international board of inquiry. And other sources confirm to me that, indeed, this was Susan Rice’s recommendation. (This may explain why the U.S. was mute when Israel was condemned by the Human Right Council.)
But this brain storm might be a bridge too far, even for timid Democrats on the Hill. So (like the leaks about an imposed peace plan from James Jones meeting with such illustrious characters as Zbigniew Brzezinski), this may be an idea that the Obama administration really, really wants to pursue but doesn’t know if it can pull off. Test the waters, make Israel nervous. Turn up the heat. Show the Arabs what good guys we are. But if the game plan is exposed and a firestorm erupts, well, then — retreat. Deny that was ever the intention and come up with a plan that is less offensive — another “compromise.”
There is another alternative, of course. Veto (if it should come to the Security Council) and/or refuse to cooperate with any UN investigation. Support an Israeli investigation. The administration can and should do both. Perhaps the revelation that Obama is playing footsie with the UN (again, and as he did with the NPT group), will cause the administration to sound the retreat (as the Obama team was forced to do regarding the trial balloon on an imposed peace plan). But Obama can never bring himself to wholeheartedly embrace Israel and say no to the international community. Let’s see if he can manage to do that this time around.
I suppose, if nothing else, one should be grateful that Obama is showing his true colors for once. Among his failings as a human being and a leader—and they are legion—perhaps none is more glaring than his dishonesty, which has been on fairly continuous display since he took the oath of office. He has not leveled with the American people regarding his stance on health care (despite his refusals to acknowledge the fact, he is on record as stating his ultimate goal for the country is universal health care), nor has he been forthcoming about his views on black nationalism or socialism.
At least at last, he is flautning his anti-Semitism for all the world to see. I trust that Jewish voters will find some way to repay his candor in the polls come November of 2012.
The White House is sharply denying a claim by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol that “the administration intends to support an effort next week at the United Nations to set up an independent commission, under UN auspices, to investigate Israel’s behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident.”
The White House has suggested in the past that it supported international participation in an Israeli investigation, but a shift to the kind of international inquiry supported by many of Israel’s critics would be a dramatic one, and a White House official brushed off Kristol’s flotation.
The White House pushed, immediately after the incident, to downgrade a planned resolution condmening Israel to a vague presidential statement that didn’t directly target the Jewish State.
The White House official said the administration continues to support “an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent.”
The White House is pushing back hard against a claim by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol that the administration is preparing to support an independent U.N. investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident.
Kristol, writing on the Weekly Standard blog, claimed he had heard, “the administration intends to support an effort next week at the United Nations to set up an independent commission, under UN auspices, to investigate Israel’s behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident.”
The White House quickly and sharply denied that account.
A White House official told multiple reporters, “We’ve said from the beginning that we support an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent. We are open to different ways of ensuring the credibility of this Israeli-led investigation, including international participation.”
The official also said, “We know of no resolution that will be debated at the U.N. on the flotilla investigation next week.”
Kristol’s allegation, and the White House’s rebuttal of it, is further illustration of the ongoing tension between some in the pro-Israel advocacy community and the administration over how strongly and aggressively to defend Israel in the international arena.
While it’s true there is no specific resolution expected, sources close to the issue say, what pro-Israel leaders like Kristol are worried about are continuing calls for tougher measures against Israel, such as the vote in the Human Rights Council, and whether or not the administration will really oppose them with vigor.
As expected, the administration is denying the report — sort of. The response is telling, and not only for its gratuitous nastiness. First, the administration plainly thinks it’s achieved a grand success by toning down the UN resolution and downgrading it to a statement. And it lets on that, once again, some “compromise” is under consideration. Moreover, it only denies that the UN will not debate the resolution “next week.”
What is missing is any determination to rule out an international investigation. Indeed, it advances the notion that an Israeli investigation would not be “credible.” No mention is made of, and there seems to be no interest in, investigating Turkey or the terrorists.
A simple denial would look something like this: “The United States will oppose any UN investigation into Israel.”
But the White House didn’t say that. It couldn’t even muster an official response on the record. Politico originally included a statement from White House spokesman (and friend of THE WEEKLY STANDARD) Tommy Vietor—”We have no idea what Bill Kristol is talking about, and would surmise that neither does he”—but that quote has since vanished from the blog (it can be seen here).
Maybe Tommy had to ask for his quote to be deleted because it was a tad snarky—given that the administration probably is going to end up supporting (or at least yielding to), and cooperating with, and pressuring Israel to cooperate with, a UN investigation.
He’s also probably on a tight leash after this picture zipped around the Internet this week (for the record, I fully support Vietor’s right to drink beer at a bar—and even play beer pong—though he really should keep his shirt on at public establishments, especially on a Sunday afternoon).
Let Us Learn What The Weekly Standard Has Learned
William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:
Scott Johnson at Powerline:
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Andy McCarthy at The Corner
Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall:
Howard Portnoy at The Examiner:
Ben Smith at Politico:
Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:
Jennifer Rubin again:
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
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Filed under International Institutions, Israel/Palestine, Political Figures, UN
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