ANALYSIS / Israel has forgotten the lessons of the Exodus
Israel played into Hamas' hands by storming the boats of the 'Freedom Flotilla.'
Despite having its eyes wide open, Israel fell into a trap. Israel knew that the organizers of the flotilla wanted to present the Israel Defense Forces to the world as an army that does not hesitate to use force. The flotilla organizers wanted deaths, casualties, blood and billows of smoke. And this is exactly what Israel gave them.
Every child knows that the conflict here is one of consciousness,images, emotion and gut-feelings; not one of justice or logic. Therefore, Israel should have acted differently.
Israel's decision-makers should have revived memories of Israel's own history. It shows just how short a historical memory the prime minister, defense minister, chief of staff, and Navy commander all have. They don't remember the story of the Exodus ship in 1947.
The British Mandate authorities imposed a blockade on the shores ofthe land of Israel and Jewish leaders believed it was their right and their duty to break it. The Jewish immigrants on the Exodus decided to forcefully oppose every attempt to stop them. The Jewish leadership wanted to arouse the world's conscience and gain a victory in the
battle for international sympathy.
In our day, Hamas leaders believe and act similarly. Without getting into the question of the justification or logic of the blockade imposed by Gaza and its residents, it was indeed clear that it was only natural that Hamas would try to break the blockade by force. They have been doing this by means of the smuggling tunnels and via the sea. It was clear that they saw it as their natural right to oppose attempts to stop the ships.
In 1988, when the PLO organized a ship named "The Return" to be sent to Israel with Palestinian refugees, Israel chose a different method to stop it. It sent Mossad agents and Naval commandos to Cyprus to sabotage the ship before the passengers had embarked. The ship was damaged but no one was hurt.
Israel should have considered a similar approach with the Gaza flotilla. But apparently the days in which Israeli agents could operate freely in friendly countries are gone.
There was another possibility. During Ehud Olmert's term as prime minister, Israel permitted a lone aid ship, filled with supplies and activists, to enter Gaza. The skies did not fall on Israel in the wake of this.
The Israeli government could have acted similarly this time. No disaster would have occurred. The boats would have landed, the supplies would have been unloaded and the activists would have disembarked.
So what? You may argue that this would have set a precedent. But I argue that if Hamas had tried to do the same thing again in the future, Israel would still have had the ability to
operate differently and outsmart Hamas.
As a last resort, it would also have been possible to simply sabotage the motors of the boats, halting their voyage without having to seize control of the ships. Instead of this, the Israeli government preferred to take control of the ships by force.
Apparently Israel, which prides itself as having the best intelligence in the world, should have known better that there were violent elements aboard one of the boats, equipped iron bars, knifes and slingshots. Had Israel known this, it would have probably used more appropriate ways to storm boat, to avoid death and injuries. And that did not happen.
Israel has played into Hamas' hands. It's not the fault of the young soldiers who obeyed the orders of their commanders. The responsibility lies with the cabinet and the military planners.
No matter how one looks at the conduct of the Israeli government and the IDF, it is hard to understand how stupid and tragic it was. 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.