Monday, May 31, 2010

First comments on the Gaza flotilla disaster by Shmuel Roster (blog)

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Details are still sketchy as I write this post, so all is subjected to changes. However, here are a couple of things that need to be watched, and understood at this time. I will update this post as we go along.

Obviously, this was not the intended result of Israel's intercepting of the convoy. Did Israel know in advance that the soldiers will be ambushed? If not, that is a problem. Maybe the problem. If they did, how did Israel prepare the forces and what was the plan for taking over the ships?

With all the all-too-familiar outcry about public relations, public opinion, world opinion, Israel's image etc, one has to remember that PR - as important as it might be - is not all in life. Definitely not all in military life. If force had to be used as to prevent the flotilla from going into Gaza - if there was no way around it - than PR becomes a secondary issue and will have to be dealt with later.

Will Netanyahu cancel his US visit and go back to Israel? (he did) I think he shouldn't do such thing, but this will be politically risky. Rabin didn't come back from a visit when the first Intifadah erupted (he was Defense Minister) and was criticized for it. I always thought this criticism wasn't fair - it was Monday morning quarterbacking. But Netanyahu might face the same dilemma and the same result if he doesn't come back - and violent demonstrations make this event the cornerstone marking the beginning of third Intifada. If he comes back and nothing happens he will also be criticized - for being hysterical.

With all due respect to Turkey's protestations, the crisis in Turkey-Israel relations isn't new, and the interests of the two sides didn't change because of this event. If the Turks turn this into a major crisis it is because they were looking for excuses to ignite such crisis.

Remember the Jenin Massacre? Remember reports like this one? "A British forensic expert who has gained access to the West Bank city of Jenin says evidence points to a massacre by Israeli forces". The evidence was bogus, as we all know now. When there's smoke screen, there's rumor. When there's rumor, we know nothing.

Tzipi Livni had offered to help - that's good. She can be one of the most effective speakers at this time, clarifying to international audiences that this wasn't some crazy action by the "radical Netanyahu government". I expect most Israelis - vast majority of Israelis - while unhappy with the result and worried about the possible consequences - to generally agree that letting the flotilla into Gaza was not an option, and that letting peace activists stub Israeli soldiers with knives and hammer them and axe them was also not an option. This brings us back to the first point I was making: Did Israel have enough intelligence? was this the only operational option?

Day Opening - May 31

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