As “Mavi Marmara” and its smaller companions set their sails across the Mediterranean’s turbulent waters towards Gaza, Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak announced Israel’s top ministerial “cabinet of seven” decision to prevent the flotilla’s arrival in Gaza. This statement was made at a press conference convened by the MOD with the IDF Chief of Staff and the Admiral of the Navy.
While this was going on I wondered about the possibility that the Israeli leadership is playing a well-planned, confident, intelligent game that is guaranteed a positive outcome and the support of the international community.
It wouldn’t make sense otherwise, I thought, especially when PM Netanyahu was about to meet with President Barack Obama in an effort to push forward Israeli-Palestinian talks. Netanyahu was on an official visit to Canada and getting ready to head to Washington.
At the same time and a hemisphere away a symposium was held in Doha, Qatar on the subject of “Prosperous Economic Future.” In attendance was Israel’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Brigadier General (Ret.) Fouad (Binyamin) Ben-Eliezer who represented Israel. Qatar has been Israel’s base of operation in the Arab-Persian Gulf for more than a decade. Yes, it is the same Qatar whom severed its diplomatic ties to Israel in response operation “Cast Lead” against Gaza.
In the same line of thought, the Minister of Defense Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Ehud Barak is often celebrated for his intellect, sophistication, long-term vision and superb sense of stratagem and maneuver. I imagined that he realized that the waters of the Mediterranean would swallow his warnings and that flotilla will proceed to Gaza defiantly. Therefore, the Minister, I estimated, would conceivably order the Navy to raise the pictures of Israel’s POW Corporal Gilad Shalit on its own vessels and perhaps throw in a few signs calling for prisoner exchange and peace between the two nations. These signs could perhaps display anti-HAMAS messges too. Then, the Navy could escort the flotilla safely to Gaza and make sure that its humanitarian cargo is offloaded and delivered to UNRWA or another international relief organization.
This would be a clear and honest message to the people of Gaza and to the international community that Israel empathizes with the plight of the “simple people” and that it is willing to support them despite the defunct government they are rule by.
This is what I thought to myself after the flotilla embarked towards Gaza. But Monday’s winds blew against common sense and in contrast to the realities of regional and international circumstances. We saw commando takeover operation that resulted in unnecessary casualties and arrests of foreign nationals, we saw international condemnations and demands for investigatory commissions to look into Israel’s conduct and treatment of the “Marmara”. PM Netanyahu was forced to cancel his meeting with President Obama and rush back home to study and manage the situation. Interestingly, throughout this ordeal, the identity and objectives of the flotilla organizers and participants were all but ignored by the international community.
Why did this happen and how? The only explanation I see is that when muscles substitute for brains and arrogance supersedes restraint borne of situational awareness – then the outcome will inevitably be as we have seen.