The Freedom flotilla
ship bound for Gaza with aid supplies that was stormed
by Israeli commandos in international
waters on Monday was flying
a Turkish flag. Turkey is a member
of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Israel is not. And according to that treaty, a member state is supposed to treat an attack on another member as an attack on itself.
Article 5 of the treaty spells it out:
"The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."
Many in the blogosphere are asking
whether Turkey will now invoke Article 5, which, at least in theory, could prompt the United States to side with Turkey over Israel. But as outrageous as Israel's actions were -- there are many other ways to divert an unarmed ship than storming it and opening fire -- early indications suggest the United States is unwilling to fully condemn its non-NATO ally, let alone punish it. At the United Nations, the Obama administration
"refused to endorse a statement that singled out Israel, and proposed a broader condemnation of the violence that would include the assault by passengers of the Israeli commandos as they landed on the deck of the ships," the New York Times reported
. (At least nine of the ship's passengers were killed in the raid, and no commandos died. Some reports
have the death toll as high as 19.)
International opinion seems to be more in line with that of Turkish officials, who are threatening
to offer a naval escort to future ships attempting break the Israeli blockade. Monday's attack is "tantamount to banditry and piracy; it is murder conducted by a state," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
It's unclear if Turkey will make good on these threats, which if carried out could provoke a direct confrontation with Israel. But what seems clear from the United States initial response to Monday's incident is that Turkey cannot count on Washington's support as defined by Article 5.