As my fingers tap the keyboard to write this I increasingly get the feeling I'm squeezing a lemon. A glance at the print and broadcast media reveals that my colleagues are in the same predicament. That's how it is when our leaders' foolishness or foul-ups repeat themselves. That's how it is when journalists see how our leaders repeat the same mistakes time and again. We have no choice but to keep it up until they run the country without stumbling and getting us into trouble with the whole world. Until they learn to sing, as the famous joke goes.
First of all, you need a special talent to reach a situation where the Iranians play the role of humanitarians. And as they build a nuclear bomb to the chagrin of the entire world, they are even thinking about joining the next "humanitarian flotilla."
Turkish cynicism has also reached a peak. Not only was the Turkish ship the only one with bloodthirsty terrorists aboard, but thousands of excited demonstrators threatened the Israeli embassy in Ankara. Guess what? Turkey had the nerve to send an official protest to Israel about the demonstration in front of its embassy in Tel Aviv. By chance I was passing by on Hayarkon Street that day; the threatening demonstration included a small handful of young people who shouted from the other side of the street. Nothing serious.
More than one war between us and the Arabs ended with a scandal, divisiveness, mistakes in assessing the rival, and a debate on whether we needed a commission of inquiry. This happened all the more so after operations that were not part of the national or international consensus.
Eight years of Qassam rockets on the one hand, and an ambitious Ehud Barak as defense minister on the other, gave rise to Operation Cast Lead. But the use of too much force brought on us the international commission of inquiry headed by Richard Goldstone, which labeled us murderers.
This nation, which has produced more humanists than any other nation, is falsely condemned as an enemy of mankind. If only because of that we should have been particularly cautious with a U.S. president who very soon began to tire of us.
The question is whether we acted against the flotilla with that necessary caution. Was the glorious forum of seven senior ministers informed in detail of the modus operandi of the Shayetet naval commandos, or did it leave the "details" to Barak? And since he is known to consult only with himself, one Labor MK jokingly described the flotilla failure a "Tze'elim Gimmel." This is not the place to recall Tze'elim Bet, a 1992 training accident in which five elite Sayeret Matkal commandos were killed; it's the type of thing that is banned from publication. Labor MK Amir Peretz said this week that if he had been the defense minister they would have hanged him in the village square for making a decision the way Barak did.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, meanwhile, criticized the way we operated against the flotilla. Why is he suddenly remembering now, after the fact? I also have a few words for Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor, who after the Second Lebanon War went from one broadcasting studio to another criticizing the war, stressing that had he been in the cabinet he would have had many questions before going to war. Now he is not only in the cabinet, he's in the forum of seven that makes the decisions. Did he ask the right questions? Did he vote against?
The world has changed, and we as part of globalization cannot do whatever we feel like. And when we decided how and whether to use force to stop the flotilla, and the Turkish ship in particular, did we take into account that capturing a civilian ship resembles an act of piracy? Due to the Mossad's failure, the military didn't know that terrorists were waiting in ambush with knives and metal rods. With a certain degree of cynicism one could say that we were lucky that a gang of terrorists was on board the Mavi Marmara. Without them we would have been told that we behaved like pirates when we took control of a ship full of civilians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to return from Canada to Israel without attending a planned reconciliation meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, and now we are once again struggling with the question of what type of commission of inquiry will be forced on us. Our own committee with a foreign observer? A Goldstone-type United Nations commission? An examination committee with an American supervisor?
Nothing good will come of it. It's been a long time since Israel's image was at such a low point as now. Douglas Bloomfield, a former senior official at AIPAC, wrote this week in his popular blog that the flotilla affair was a failure for Israel and a victory for Hamas.
Israel is more isolated than ever, and the obligation to maintain the alliance with the United States is more critical. Commentator Jeffrey Goldberg writes in the magazine The Atlantic that "I don't necessarily believe you solve all of America's problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by freezing settlement growth. On the other hand, there's no particular reason for Israel to make itself a pain in the tush either."
Meanwhile, time flies. Netanyahu will not make the right decision until he first makes every possible mistake. And we'll continue to squeeze the lemon until the next foul-up. Don't bite your nails, it will definitely come.
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