When is the world going to say to Israel, enough?
When will the international community make clear that the situation in this part of the world is too dangerous to allow the Israeli government to act like a rogue state?
The moment is now. The world must insist that Israel cease to behave as if it is the one country that can act with impunity, above the law, with no regard for consequences.
What happened to the Gaza-bound flotilla was not an accident or an exception. It fits a consistent pattern of Israeli behavior of disproportionate actions, of disrespect for anybody’s rights but their own, and of disregard for international law.
To Palestinians, none of this is a surprise. It is to be hoped that those who defend Israel internationally will now see the reality and act accordingly.
The timing of this outrage is utterly reckless. How do Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak suppose that such state violence advances the cause of peace? They make the excuse that they are combating terrorism, but the message of their own action is that force is everything.
How do they suppose this looks to those in Palestine who are engaged with US efforts to negotiate a lasting agreement between Israel and Palestine?
Our optimism was already tempered by our long experience of Israeli tactics. But we say to our people, let us do all we can to ensure that US President Barack Obama can at last bring Israel to agreement. That means working patiently to build the institutions of a Palestinian state while President Mahmoud Abbas engages with the US envoy, George Mitchell.
It means working daily to strengthen our economy, despite all the restrictions placed on us by the Israeli occupation, which disrupts the free movement of our farmers and traders trying to go about their business, offering no threat to anyone.
It means working weekly to improve law and order so that our streets are safer for our own people. Nobody can say we are not stable and well governed.
Working to build our own state in spite of occupation means putting up with daily humiliations, suffering the violence of Israeli settlers who set fire to Palestinian olive groves and incite riots wherever possible. None of this is easy to do when our opposition says such tactics lead nowhere because Israel understands only the language of violence.
Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla makes it very much harder for us to see Israel as a partner for peace. Israel is fond of saying — falsely — that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. The question the world needs to ask is whether this Israeli government is behaving like a partner for peace.
Israel must now heed the United Nations’ call for an end to the siege on Gaza. It must abide by the findings of an impartial, credible investigation into these killings, not ignore them, as it did with the Goldstone report into its military assault on Gaza last year.
It is clear to any reasonable person that Israel’s version of the attack on the flotilla is not the truth. Any investigation must give full weight to the testimony of those attacked.
It is impossible to understand how Israel can behave so aggressively, right now, when all who believe in peace need to show, in all we do and say, that force is not the way, that violence must be rejected. A weak international response would be a gift to those who argue for violence.
The Palestinian leadership will not be deterred from our declared aim of building the institutions of state by next year. We are on course to achieve this. The World Bank has recently reported that we are making steady progress. But it also described the situation as precarious.
We cannot achieve our peaceful aim unless the world stands up to Israeli aggression and insists that the days of disregarding international law are over. The Israel that launched this attack in international waters is the Israel that has been in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions for more than 40 years.
The world must say, enough. If not now, when?
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views. This commentary is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with bitterlemons.org.