Israel signals new cooperation with UN over Gaza flotilla
As a fresh round of activist ships prepares to set sail from Lebanon, Israel and the UN have made conciliatory statements on the Gaza flotilla issue that could help repair the fraught relationship – although not completely.
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'We hold Ban in the highest esteem'
Beyond the flotilla affair, Israel wants to court the UN chief as a way of limiting the influence of the international body’s Human Rights council – which sponsored the Goldstone commission and has already commissioned an inquiry of its own into the flotilla affair.Skip to next paragraph
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While Israel’s government has come out against cooperating with the inquiry commissioned by the Human Rights council, it sees Ban as a more credible partner.
"You have to distinguish between the two,’’ said an Israeli government official. "The human rights council makes no pretense to be objective. It has a persistent and consistent anti-Israel obsession…. The same cannot be said of the secretary general. In Israel we hold him in the highest esteem.’’
Needed now: progress in peace talks
A former Israeli diplomat who is a critic of the Netanyahu government says that Israel might be getting a dividend from its easing of its blockade of Gaza – made under intense diplomatic pressure following the flotilla.
"Israel eased the boycott meaningfully. Maybe we’ve scored some points at the UN because Israel revealed some sensitivity to the pressure," says Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry.
But he cautioned that Israel-UN ties are still liable to be rocky if there is no progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
At the upcoming UN General Assembly in September, the international body is expected to review whether Israel and Hamas have launched investigations into the charges raised by the Goldstone committee. Israel could also find itself under pressure if the Netanyahu declares an end to a 10-month moratorium on new settlement building.
"The same issues are still around,’’ Mr. Liel says. "Even if there was a positive exchange on the issue of the siege, I don’t think it will help Israel when it comes to the big picture unless things start moving in the talks."
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