Vincent Ferraro on the Turkish-Israeli Conflict

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 11:07

Questioning Authority caught up with Vincent Ferraro, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics, to see what he had to say about the recent Israeli attack on the Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.

QA: So far, the Obama administration's response to the incident has been pretty tepid. Obama said he "deeply regretted" the incident and that it was important to learn all the facts and circumstances surrounding it. In your mind is it unclear who is at fault?

VF: I believe that an investigation should be conducted by the United Nations, not Israel. Obviously, it is important to know all the facts and circumstances before making a judgment, so it's hard to question that assessment. All we have so far are the biased reports from both sides. Right now, it appears as if an attack was conducted on the high seas against a vessel registered in Turkey. Under ordinary circumstances, such an event would be considered an act of war. That judgment, however, depends on whether the attack was conducted in order to enforce a legal blockade. No legal judgment has been rendered on that question as of now. My own view, however, is that the blockade is not a legal act since there is no official list of officially banned items. There is no "legal" right to ban food or medicines in the modern world, and it appears as if such items are being banned from entering Gaza.

QA: Should the United States take a firmer stand?

VF: Absolutely. The United States should always strive for consistency on the issue of the freedom of movement on the high seas.

QA: The attack has seriously threatened the essentially positive relationship between Turkey and Israel. Is there anything Israel can do at this point to save it?

VF: The Israeli-Turkish relationship has been steadily deteriorating since the invasion of Gaza in 2008. This is only one more step in the process of deterioration. I think Israel can do little to stop the process short of lifting the blockade of Gaza right now.

QA: The incident has also stalled Middle East peace negotiations. How do you see this playing out? Will there be an escalation of hostility, or will there be diplomatic smoothing of feathers?

VF: There are a lot of other things going on in the region that are pointing toward an outbreak of violence there: the arming of Syria with Scud missiles, the re-arming of Hezbollah, and the decreasing likelihood of effective sanctions against nuclear enrichment in Iran. I suspect that war will break out in the region sometime this summer.