As I finished a fantastic sushi dinner with a dear friend, an armada of aid-bearing ships bound for the beleaguered Gaza Strip were some 200km offshore. As I devised some sort of reasonable plan for my future, others threw their scheme to scuttle this shipment of humanitarian aid into action.
Facts are beginning to trickle in, as they often do in cases like this. Israel commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the flagship and were met by some (expected, and not unjustified) resistance in the form of angry protesters with blunt weapons. In the fray (reports differ, see Jpost or Haaretz's accounts) soldiers retaliated in alleged self-defense and killed and injured a slew of activists. Those aboard the flagship, the Mavi Marmara of Turkey, have been branded by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Foreign Ministry as "violent supporters of a terror organization". Deputy Foreign
Yet again the current Israeli government has thrashed and bumbled its way into a diplomatic shitstorm. The willingness to employ lethal force when not absolutely necessary (in this case sending the commandos on board which precipitated the use of violence) has again stained Israel's increasingly murky reputation. Plenty of alternatives to sending troops aboard existed, but none were employed; now the soldiers are praised by Barak for bravely boarding a ship-full of leftist protesters. As today's protests in Turkey and across the globe testify, Israel's international standing is precarious.
I shall not attempt to prognosticate how this will affect the "peace process" or Israel's relations with Turkey or anyone else. Time will tell. What can be said is that those in charge of dealing with the "Free Gaza" fleet displayed a lack of acumen and diplomatic poise all-too-typical of the current administration. Whatever alternatives there were to letting the ships through or assaulting it as they did are now irrelevant. The damage to Israel's standing abroad has been dealt, and Israelis and their government must hold their breath and hope for the best. The gravity of this event should not be underestimated.
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plaintive musing after Pearl Harbor has particular and increasing significance: