Israel got suckered, the same way it gets suckered over and over. It walks into situations where it will inevitably come out looking like a bully, arouses worldwide anger and then gets indignant when it’s condemned. It’s like watching Charlie Brown charge the football, knowing that Lucy will snatch it away as she always does.
Here’s how Haaretz intelligence maven Yossi Melman summed it up:
Time and again, Israel tries to prove that what can’t be solved by force can be solved by more force. Over and over, the policies of force fail. The problem is that with each failure, the part of the world in which we would like to belong is losing patience with us.
As for the bloodshed at sea, the verdict isn’t so clear cut, and it’s important to draw a clear line between the boneheaded thinking of the Israeli government that walked into this situation and the actions of the Israeli troops who were sent into action. Israel had made it plain that it intended to stop the convoy by force if necessary, which is how naval blockades work for better or (mostly) worse, so the passengers had a pretty good idea of what to expect. On the other hand, the convoy had presented itself as a humanitarian mission of peace activists, suggesting that the Israeli boarding party could expect to find the passengers holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome.” Opening fire would be senseless. That, of course, is the scenario that’s captured the world’s imagination and ire.
But that’s not how it turned out. The Israeli commandos came rappelling down from a helicopter one by one and were greeted with knives and iron bars. In case you’ve missed it, here’s what it looked like:
You could call that lots of things, but nonviolent resistance and peace activism don’t spring to mind. Gandhi and King taught that you take the blows of the oppressor and never fight back, and by your moral example you awaken the humanity of the other side. They never said anything about whacking the crap out of them.
Yediot Ahronot military columnist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote a blow-by-blow from the troops’ perspective.