The intensity of the international reactions to Israel’s decision to stop the Gaza aid flotilla proves that we have gotten on the nerves of both friends and enemies. After hearing endless commentaries and seeing the embarrassing displays, what should concern us is the campaign to delegitimize Israel. This mishandled incident played into the campaign’s hands. There’s a price to arrogance; for example, when we sat the Turkish ambassador on a low seat and thought we were heroes.
This flotilla was not a humanitarian operation but a public relations campaign that Israel lost because Israel acted exactly as expected: like a bull in a china shop. The global response from friends, and even more so from non-friends, is serious because it indicates our overall situation in the world.
People are beginning to get tired of our viewpoints and excuses. At a time when the world is full of economic and political problems that demand solutions, Israel is taking center stage with its problems. It seems our leaders are unaware that moderation is required when we bother the world with our problems. Israel has to change directions quickly. How? It should stop being an occupier.
I don’t like that word, but the Palestinians have successfully introduced our image as occupiers into global awareness. And Israel, with steps such as our siege on Gaza, is only strengthening our negative image. When President Barack Obama’s America is working to use agreements to reduce areas of tension around the world, Israel cannot behave like the neighborhood bully.
Even if every action is justified, our policy − what can’t be solved by force should be solved by more force − is not acceptable to America and the European Union. And this comes at a time when Obama says force must be the last resort, under no circumstances the first. That’s why he is acting cautiously − on tiptoe − on the Iranian issue, and why the sane world is worried about the direct and implied threats that Israel will act on its own against Iran.
About a week ago a British newspaper published a report that was picked up by our newspapers, too, that Israel had sent a nuclear submarine to the Persian Gulf. It’s not clear whether the report is true, but just the fact that it was published was a finger in the eye of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It also embarrassed the U.S. administration.
Now, when everyone has seen how clumsily we acted against the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, the entire world, especially us, has to pray that Israel will leave the Iranian problem to the major powers and concentrate on bringing peace to its own backyard.
As fate − or foolish coincidence − would have it, the takeover of the Mavi Marmara took place when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Canada. For about an hour we heard contrasting reports from there on whether Netanyahu would go on to Washington or return directly home. He had already heard about what was happening on the ship and about the ambush set for him by Hamas’ friends. Sara Netanyahu’s face did not reveal his hesitation, because in any situation the camera catches her with a big smile.
But in the end the White House decided to postpone the meeting for another time.
And they did the right thing. Obama’s spokesman condemned the operation, as did spokespeople, ministers and heads of state the world over. It was the television quiz show “1 Against 100” in reverse. It turns out that you can show contempt for some of the world some of the time, but not all of the world all of the time. “Something has thinned out in the Jewish brain,” says MK Nachman Shai. “Every misstep of ours contains the beginning of the next one.”
The immediate question is whether it’s necessary to establish a commission of inquiry. The answer is yes, because there are many unanswered questions. Who decided and how? Who approved the parameters of the operation? How is it that Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who got us into trouble with half the world with the theft of foreign passports to assassinate Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, was unable to infiltrate agents onto the Mavi Marmara to report on their forces and weapons? That would have prevented the surprise awaiting the fighters who were lowered onto the ship straight to the lynch units.
Where was the inventive Jewish brain? The defense establishment knows exactly where the failures were, but it is important to establish the commission of inquiry, with an American observer, before the United Nations sets up its own commission with a hostile chairman.
We are strong in the war against weak opponents, but the weak are turning their weakness into strength. This operation raises questions: How is a decision made as this one was − not in the government, not in the cabinet, but in a “limited circle.” And is fat and happy Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who suits the quip about the wunderkind that “the wonder is gone and the child remains,” still fit to continue to serve as defense minister?
Above all, hasn’t the time come to remove Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and their parties from the government and bring in Kadima? The entire world is against us − those are no longer the words of a popular Hebrew song, but a threat to our existence.
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