Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Let's take a step back from the outcry and make a few observations about Monday's tragic events. Let's first say that Israel lost this one. It seems plain that Israel lost far more than it gained. This was a PR battle from the start. As soon as the ships sets sail from Turkey Israel lost. The only option at that point was to quietly let the ships reach Gaza, despite the fact that more than a few of the "passengers" could very well have been dangerous terrorists and that there might as well have been weapons onboard. As many Israeli commentators note, you don't send soldiers to a PR battle. As soon as the ships set sail Israel was stuck in a catch-22. In such situations military force does not work. But if you do you send soldiers, you send them ready for any possible situation. I don't watch many reality cop shows, but you only have to watch one to see that there are many non-lethal methods for subduing people that are far better than paintball guns. Read Yossi Melman's column in Haaretz for more on this. Let's also say that Israel was right. Israel justifiably maintains a naval blockade of the Gaza strip and it must continue intercepting weapons ships, just as it did for example in November. By the way Egypt also maintains a blockade. Hamas' main objective is war with Israel. Hamas maintains a constant state of belligerence with Israel and Israel has every right to protect its citizens. Time and again Hamas has shown itself more interested in importing weapons than food, more interested in building tunnels than schools, homes or roads. No doubt the building materials on board these ships would have been used to build more smuggling tunnels than schools. Now unfortunately the world will not see the legitimacy of Israel's blockade. Israel will be criticized for "besieging" Gaza. Maintaining its rightful blockade of Gaza will come under even more international scrutiny. No amount of talking points from all of the organizations I support will help to explain this situation. And this is why Israel's actions were so disheartening, and terribly unproductive. The more important battle was not the struggle that happened at sea but the ongoing battle for Israel's legitimacy and its right to defend its citizens, as well as free Gilad Shalit. The tragedy is that the Gaza flotilla and Israel's mishandling of it have obscured the more important fight.