The wider the international condemnation of its actions, the more Israel digs itself deeper into a bunker mentality of denial and self-justification. Since the Israeli government sees its raid on the Gaza aid flotilla as justified under international law and only leading to violence because of the provocation of the activists on board the main ship, it sees no need to apologise for its actions or to go along with an outside inquiry into them.
To that extent, the UN Security Council statement early yesterday morning condemning the "acts" which led to the deaths and injuries on board, and calling for an impartial investigation into the incident, is unlikely to have much impact. The statement was greatly watered down by the US, which refused to go along with the outright condemnation proposed by Turkey. Israel has never really taken much notice of the UN, which it regards as irredeemably prejudiced against it. There is no way of forcing an inquiry on the country, if it won't co-operate, as it has refused to co-operate in investigations of its invasion of Gaza last year.
We have been here before, most recently in the furore over Mossad's assassination of a Hamas leader in the Gulf using forged British passports, and nothing has resulted. To a cynical Middle East, very little will result from this latest "massacre", as the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called it in parliament yesterday.
But there is one way in which the international outcry may – and should – have an early effect, and that is to draw attention to the blockade of Gaza and the plight of its inhabitants. The blockade has been in force ever since Hamas took over Gaza three years ago. It was intended to pressure the Islamic group into recognising Israel, if not undermining its authority to the point that its rule in Gaza would collapse.
It has achieved neither. Instead it has brought untold misery to an impoverished and desperate people, children most of all. It is time to think anew. If nothing else, Israel must open the border and allow more aid and assistance into the Palestinian strip. The international outrage over the flotilla raid may well make it more difficult for Israel to refuse that.
But in a more fundamental sense it should cause a radical rethink of the policy, pushed by Israel but also supported by the US and Europe, of total confrontation with Hamas. Gaza needs not just a humanitarian solution but a political one. The start must be dealing openly with Hamas.