Question: Will Israel’s attack on the Gaza-bound ‘freedom flotilla’ shift the balance of power in the Middle East at all? Answer: No.
The pre-dawn raid carried out by Israeli navy commandoes on the morning of May 31 can be termed premature, ill-planned, badly executed or just plain crazy. The strike may have cost Israel its friendship with Turkey, but Israel doesn’t care. International criticism of the raid may be harsh, but Israel won’t be moved.
The reason? Even though we have lived through a century that bred multilateral organisations claiming to influence a country’s policies and ambitions, the reality is that the state is still the most important player on the world stage. And this situation looks likely to continue for a very long time.
The latest crisis in the Middle East, the unfortunate massacre on the Mavi Marmara, is the most recent illustration of this reality. No matter how much outrage followed Israel’s strike, the UN Security Council could not evolve consensus on a statement that called for an independent probe into the incident, because states friendly to Israel held the right to veto such a response.
Even international law falters in the face of a state’s might. Much has been made of the fact that Israel attacked the flotilla in ‘international waters,’ as if this indiscretion magnifies the illegality of the act.
The reality is that to Israel, a state which has not even endorsed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, ‘international waters’ are about as significant as a paddling pool.
Of course, Israel is not the only state that is protected by the multilateral body’s inability to act. Ironically, the same limitations on achieving international consensus that shelter Israel also shelter its nemesis, Iran.
Ultimately, evolving ‘true’ multilateral consensus will not be possible until every state has an equal vote in the decision-making process.
Until then, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that the state always comes out on top.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2010.