Plus, the weapons cache:
Putting on my political scientist's cap, did Israeli officials really think through the international public relations backlash of a commando raid on a "humanitarian" mission to Gaza? Of course we know the flotilla was essentially an enemy landing party and Jerusalem is right in wanting to protect Israelis from hostile elements entering the country. But c'mon. As many as 19 killed? And who's going to get the black eye in public opinion? Noah Pollack argues that Israel anticipated a hostile international reaction, and therefore deployed the commandos without sufficient firepower to establish control:
Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.And see Debkafile, "Why was Israeli raider force unprepared for violent resistance?"Also, from Blake Hounshell:
But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.
Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one.
Israeli officials appear to be circling the wagons; the question now becomes what the White House will say and do. So far the Obama administration has said little, but with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu currently in Canada and scheduled to visit Washington Tuesday, it can't stay silent for long. There is talk in Israel that Netanyahu will cancel his trip, which would probably be the smart thing to do. There will be heavy international pressure on Obama to condemn the incident, and he will probably make some kind of mild statement. But a White House visit would quickly make the United States the focal point of world attention in a way that is, as White House officials like to put it, "not helpful."Daniel Drezner puts things a bit more succinctly:
It already has the makings of a huge international fracas that will make the Goldstone Report look like small potatoes by comparison. But to what end? Israelis on the right end of the political spectrum -- and that is most of them these days -- are convinced there is a "propaganda war" against their country, that most if not all of the criticism is unfair, and that the real issue is the radicalism of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which openly call for Israel's destruction. That's certainly the perspective of hard-line government officials like Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, who has already called the ships an "armada of hate and violence" and accused the activists of links to al Qaeda.
In other words, there's a huge unwillingness on the Israeli right to face reality -- that Israel is fast losing friends and allies in the world, and that this government in Jerusalem has only accelerated the shift. It's not hard to imagine boycott campaigns gaining momentum, damaging the Israeli economy and isolating the country diplomatically, especially in Europe.
How badly has Israel f**ked up in its response to a flotilla intending to deliver aid to Hamas-controlled Gaza? Pretty f**king badly.And no need to quote him. Just go over and read Jeffrey Goldberg in full, "On the Disappearance of Jewish Wisdom, Far Out at Sea." (Via Memeorandum.)