The consensus among most of Israel’s fans and defenders seems to be this was an enormous blunder, at least at the political and diplomatic level. Among Israel’s foes, it’s just the latest proof that Israel is the problem. I’m certainly inclined to side with the “blunder” camp, given that folks like Max Boot and Jeffrey Goldberg know so much more about this stuff than I do. But what I’d love to hear from someone making that case is what the wiser alternatives were. Should the Israelis fired across the ships bows? Then what? With the boats en routes, what was the smart play Israel didn’t make? Max Boot tries, but you can tell he hasn’t really even convinced himself. He opens with: “Israel’s actions in boarding the flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza Strip were entirely justified and perhaps even unavoidable.” He then concludes with:
There are no perfect counter-tactics available, but whenever Israel does use military force it needs to be more aware of the political ramifications. That awareness appeared to be lacking during the botched 2006 war against Hezbollah—and in the boarding of the Gaza flotilla.
One wonders if it wouldn’t have been possible for Israeli agents to sabotage the ships before they left port so that this incident would never have occurred? Or failing that, to allow the ships to be off-loaded in Gaza and then disable them so as to prevent any further trips.
That is only speculation from afar. Neither I nor any other outsider can know all the factors that went into Israeli planning. But, whatever the intent, the outcome was a fiasco that Israel doesn’t need when its relations with the United States, its most important (and virtually sole) ally, are already at a low point.
Meanwhile, Mona Charen has a good reality check on the media’s treatment of the incident. But while I think she makes many great points, the simple fact is that Israel has no good options these days. Which means everything Israel does, short of committing national suicide, will give its enemies fresh reasons to denounce it. As for its friends, their work is cut out for them for as far as the eye can see.