Miserably failing its last test, Israel’s heightened defensiveness lures new challengers like blood in the water. The MV Rachel Corrie Ashdod’s twinkling lights will reach the Gaza coast late Friday or early Saturday, the first sparks of another potential clash.
Israel has offered the use of Ashdod’s port, 20 miles north of the Gaza strip. The Rachel Corrie, named after a US activist killed in Gaza, says it isn’t stopping.
"We have not stopped and have no intention of stopping," said former Assistant UN Secretary-General Denis Halliday from aboard the vessel. "We will only stop when Israelis force us to do so."
And whatever happens more ships will eventually follow.
For what it’s worth the situation appears more sedated than the Freedom Flotilla, which intended to set off international tremors. Halliday says all passengers are unarmed and will offer no resistance if boarded. Dozens of cameras will be rolling too, which Halliday believes will limit Israel’s potential use of force.
It would also seem that Israel can’t be so foolish as to trigger another high-profile confrontation, but that logic just failed. Israel also believes, like before, that the ship will be easy to seize because of its small size. Israel will probably attempt to board.
Meanwhile the Rachel Corrie is a second bullet; it wasn’t fired after the Freedom Flotilla just to give up. The crew could be thinking Israel would be crazy to use force again. They certainly perceive a weakness, like a breach in a wall that needs to be rammed one final time. But the ship will meet resistance, having already claimed Israeli sabotage on its accompanying ships.
Perhaps Israel will still manage to neutralize the vessel non-violently. The Freedom Flotilla was waiting to resist Israel commandos while Halliday says everyone will put their hands up. Yet despite a sub-conscience shredded with doubt, Israel’s public defense offers no reflection, culpability, or sign that it’s changing anything.
Hopefully it will heed internal and external dissent to avoid a second crisis, but right now actions do the talking.
For several days America’s silent reaction rivaled Israel’s raid in importance. While the US public remains largely pro-Israel, President Barack Obama is easily the second biggest loser in the crisis. His Cairo magic gone and the White House bogged down in the UN, Israel is attracting negative attention to America across Africa, in the Sadr-controlled streets of Baghdad, throughout the Pakistani press.
Everywhere US troops find themselves.
Obama won’t be altering his policy either according to his sound-bite on Larry King:“I think what's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out, how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned - the Palestinian authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others - and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we've worked through this tragedy."
He’s right, many hoped to see America unite with the rest of the world and finally hold Israel accountable. After all the White House did promise to. Palestinians and Muslims do see the crisis as an opportunity - to leverage Obama in indirect negotiations and break out of the impasse with Israel.
What Obama doesn’t see, or else doesn’t acknowledge, is that he’s currently an obstacle to peace.
America’s response is under increasing fire and nothing will change given that Obama’s message isn’t. Still too early to condemn Israel, need to know all the facts, refusal to address the Gaza blockade. He thinks, “Israelis are going to agree to that - an investigation of international standards,” when they’re busy rejecting an independent investigation. Obama is lost in Israel’s world.
Yet he can thank Benjamin Netanyahu for stealing the spotlight. Even though the Israeli Prime Minister is making his task impossible, Obama is also obscured by the flashes of such a tall lightening rod. Judging by two of Netanyahu’s particularly self-destructive statements, Obama should begin preparing for another storm over the Rachel Corrie.
"Once again, Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment,” Netanyahu declared in a televised address. “I'm afraid this isn't the first time.”
Hard to avoid the feeling that Netanyahu is referring to the Gaza war. One error justifying another, which will justify another. The theme of Israel’s military: tactical victory, strategic defeat.
A key attribute of any successful military leader is rapid adaptation, the ability to cut one’s losses after an error and pursue another course of action. Israel, despite its self-professed military intellect and superior technology, lacks this fundamental skill. It doesn’t learn from its mistakes. Many internal indications point to Israel realizing it erred on the Mavi Marmara, but one couldn't tell from Netanyahu’s slippery-slope.
At first his defense isn’t implausible, explaining,“Now on five of the vessels our seamen were not met by any serious violence and as a result there were no serious injuries aboard those ships. But on the larger ship something very different happened. Our naval personnel were met with a vicious mob, they were stabbed they were clubbed, they were fired upon... they had to act in self defense.”
But Netanyahu’s defense is faulty nonetheless. The flotilla was a bulls eye that expected to attract Israeli hostility, so the argument that some protesters came aggressively armed is redundant. Also fallacious is the logic that the protesters, by refusing to dock at an Israeli port, were smuggling weapons into Gaza. They didn’t dock because they intended to cause an international scene, to level the blockade.
That was their objective.
It’s not the protesters' fault Israel took the bait or that its unsustainable policy towards the Palestinians left no other choice. It’s not the protesters’ fault that Israel sprung a trap it wasn’t ready for. The Freedom Flotilla suffered a tactical defeat - and achieved strategic victory.
Yet Netanyahu, unsatisfied with leaving the protesters as a “vicious mob,” wants to dig Israel into darkness. Apparently he feels that he must actively preempt people from becoming activists. If you support the breaking of the blockade, you may now be considered a “terrorist supporter” by the Israeli government.
“They were members of an extremist group that today supports the terror organization called Hamas. They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons. They chanted battle cries against the Jews.”
US ambassador Michael B. Oren made a similar remark in a New York Times op-ed: “The real peace activists are those who support our vision of a two-state solution, not those supporting the terrorists bent on destroying it.”
As did one Israeli colonel who defended one of the commandos, now up for a medal of valor. “S. did a remarkable job,” T. said. “He stabilized the situation and succeeded in hitting six of the terrorists.”
While taking IHH’s connections into consideration, Israel’s latest PR campaign is to turn everyone who supports Gazans into a terrorist supporter. The world is caving in on Israel in large part due to its own actions, and now it’s creating new psychological threats to justify itself. A world of terrorists out to get Netanyahu.
A world of terrorists chanting cries against the Jews.
Is Netanyahu sure they weren’t yelling “free Gaza” though? He should check again because branding activists on the Mavi Marmara, along with millions, possibly billions of people as “terrorist supporters,” would go straight into Israel’s loss column. This advice too will likely be lost on Netanyahu though, for Israel’s PR finale couldn’t be any more delusional. Or ironic.
Israel has taken a page from Iran’s book. All other defenses have failed, this is all it has left. On command multiple Netanyahu advisers, along with US figures like Senator Joe Lieberman and Newt Gingrich, echoed Israel's latest myth, revealing its systematic nature in the process.
“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Washington has been caught up in Israel's self-destructive spiral of silence and denial. This bodes ill for the Rachel Corrie, any future ship, Gazans, or the prospects of final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. And one can only imagine, if Israel and America can’t handle a few ships, what will become of Iran.