Feature

Israel: The fallout over the flotilla fiasco

Israel faces denunciations from the rest of the world, a possible United Nations inquiry, and pressure to relax or lift the blockade.

Once again, “the whole world is against us,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Tel Aviv’s Yedioth Ahronoth. So what else is new? After Israel was condemned around the globe for exercising our right to self-defense by stopping a Turkish-sponsored supply ship heading to Hamas-ruled Gaza last week, Israelis once again found themselves asking why every other nation was buying the Palestinian version of events, and portraying the pipe-wielding provocateurs aboard that ship as helpless victims of ruthless Israeli commandos. It’s become fashionable to say that our problem is essentially one of “public relations.” If only it were that simple. In truth, the fundamental problem is that Israel “is one state, facing 57 Muslim states that control 70 percent of the world’s natural energy sources and boast 1.3 billion citizens.” That’s a “huge market share” that countries worldwide have a self-interest in cultivating—which gives them a reason to, say, ignore rampant human-rights abuses in Saudi Arabia while condemning Israel at every turn. We should have no illusions about the goals of the Islamist groups that organized this flotilla, said the West Bank–based Arutz Sheva in an editorial. “They glorify suicide bombers and send youngsters to blow themselves up, and their Hamas cohorts aim missiles from schoolyards.” Can anyone really take their claims about “humanitarian” relief seriously?   

But the “diplomatic tsunami” engulfing Israel cannot be wished away, said Akiva Eldar in Tel Aviv’s Ha’aretz. The focus has  shifted to how to investigate this fiasco, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is resisting calls for an independent United Nations inquiry. His stubbornness will only increase the denunciations. But in one sense, he’s right: “There is no need for an inquiry” because we already know what went wrong. “No political or military official who was involved in the decision to mount a forcible takeover of the ships says that any option was considered other than the vessels either being captured or reaching the Gaza port.” In short, our leaders failed to consider alternatives, and now, the blockade of Gaza is harder than ever to defend. “We don’t need an inquiry committee to know that the blockade keeping cilantro and cement out of Gaza has turned Tehran’s deniers of the Jewish genocide and Ankara’s deniers of the Armenian genocide into standard-bearers for assistance to the unfortunate children of Gaza.”

Let’s be clear about what lifting the blockade would mean for our security, said Barry Rubin in The Jerusalem Post. There already is pressure on Israel to ease controls on “nonmilitary” items passed to the Gaza Strip. But this would be a huge boost to Hamas, which, lest we forget, is committed to Israel’s destruction. The line between military and nonmilitary supplies is fuzzy. For example, without a blockade, Hamas would have more concrete to build bunkers, and would also seize food and other goods to reward “its elite and soldiers.” Moreover, any increased “normality” in Gaza means the consolidation of Hamas rule, “so that it can fight more effectively in the future.” Israel cannot and will not let that happen.

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