Israel mishandled the Gaza "humanitarian aid" flotilla through extreme
forbearance, and will suffer a marathon of tongue-clicking and hand-wringing by
diplomatic hypocrites who know better. The Jewish state lost the propaganda
battle the moment the floating time bomb disguised as a humanitarian mission
sailed from Turkey. If Israel had denounced the matter as a provocation and
withdrawn its ambassador from Turkey, warning that the object of the exercise
was to provoke violence and open the way for weapons deliveries to Hamas, the
outcome might have been quite different.
The facts in the case are straightforward.
Although it is true, as the New York Times misleadingly noted, that the Turkish
sponsor of the flotilla - Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH - The Foundation of
Humanitarian Relief) - does not appear on the
United States State Department's list of terrorist organizations, IHH belongs
to an umbrella organization that US authorities have identified as a terrorist
financier, namely Union of Good (Ittilaf al-Kheir). 
Jonathan Schanzer, a former US government official specializing in terrorist
financing, provides the details and links to the relevant US government
documents in a post at the Weekly Standard blog . Schanzer quotes US
Treasury documents that report that the Union of Good "compensated Hamas
terrorists by providing payments to the families of suicide bombers. One of
[the charities], the al-Salah Society, previously identified as a key support
node for Hamas, was designated in August 2007 ... The Society employed a number
of members of the Hamas military wing and supported Hamas-affiliated combatants
during the first Intifada."
Turkey's secular government of a decade ago banned the IHH from contributing to
earthquake relief because of its terrorist ties, as Caroline Glick observes in
the Jerusalem Post . The fact that the present Islamist government of Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embraced IHH is consistent with Erdogan's
public support for Iran.
Israel maintains a naval blockade of Gaza because Iran among others attempts to
ship missiles and other weapons employed to attack Israeli civilians from
launching pads in Gaza. In February 2009, the Monchegorsk, shipping
weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza, was seized by authorities in Cyprus, the
most recent of several high-profile interceptions.
Israeli authorities offered to allow the flotilla to land at the Israeli port
of Ashdod and ship its cargo of humanitarian aid to Gaza overland after
appropriate security inspection; the flotilla refused.
There is in any case "no humanitarian problem in Gaza", according to the United
Nations Middle East envy Robert Perry , despite occasional shortages of
construction materials and other goods.
In short, the Gaza flotilla caper was the invention of an organization with
deep ties to terrorist financing of Hamas to ameliorate a humanitarian problem
that doesn't exist while refusing an Israeli offer to deliver its aid to Gaza.
We know the outcome: Israeli naval commandos carrying paintball guns
encountered armed resistance and suffered injuries, and ultimately used their
weapons to defend themselves. Israeli authorities say nine were killed, while
activist groups said 19 were unaccounted for.
All these facts are on the public record. Nonetheless, the international press
persist in describing the flotilla as a humanitarian aid convey rather than as
a transparent provocation by terrorist organizations, and the governments of
the world will click their tongues hypocritically over the Israeli action.
There is a curious symmetry between Israel's reluctance to call out the Turks
for their sponsorship of the provocation, and the seemingly explicable
reluctance of the Israeli military to treat the threat with the seriousness it
clearly deserved. The Israeli navy commandos walked into a trap for which they
clearly were unprepared.
After the fact, Defense Minister Ehud Barak denounced the IHH as "a violent,
extremist organization that supports terrorism". But if that is the case, David
Horovitz asked in the Jerusalem Post, "In such circumstances, facing
such hostility, it is hard to fathom why the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] so
underestimated the challenge its soldiers would face, and thus erred so
strikingly over both its choice of how to thwart the flotilla, and over the
number of soldiers, and the equipment, it sent into the battle at sea."
Evidently, Israel has trouble accepting the reality on the ground, just as
other governments do. There is not going to be a peace negotiation, but rather
a war, and that the war will be terrible and bloody. Israel has lost Turkey as
an ally; the United States, for that matter, has lost Turkey as an ally, as the
leaders of Ankara compete with the mullahs of Tehran for the leadership of
Islamism. A stronger American hand might have made war unnecessary. But the
Barack Obama administration has withdrawn from strategic leadership, and when
the cat's away, as I wrote last October, the mice kill each other .
Israel has been hoping against hope that the old alliance with Turkey can be
salvaged, and that the American national security establishment somehow will
overrule the president, whose aversion to the use of American power is now a
matter of doctrine. During a recent visit to Jerusalem, well-informed Israelis
emphasized that Israel was trying to show the United States that it is a
reliable ally. But it is hard to be a reliable ally of a superpower that no
longer wishes to be one.
Whether Israel has the wherewithal to set back Iran's nuclear ambitions for a
number of years is a matter of debate; it almost certain could do so with
tactical nuclear weapons launched from its submarines now in the Persian Gulf.
It would have to combine an air attack on Iran with a ground assault on
Hezbollah's forces in southern Lebanon. In the best of cases a decisive victory
against Hezbollah might cost the lives of perhaps 3,000 infantrymen, not to
mention the lives of civilians caught in a rocket bombardment. It would have to
have sufficient resources to frighten Syria away from intervening, or, if
necessary, to reduce Syria's armed forces. If the war plan went awry,
casualties might be far greater.
The actual parameters of a pre-emptive war are far more complex, and I have
neither the information nor the expertise to offer further conjectures on how
matters might play out. There are many possible variants; if I knew enough to
analyze them competently, I would not write about them in any event.
The price under the best of outcomes would be traumatic for a state in which
the death of a single serviceman is a national tragedy. The country's leaders
still hope against hope that they might find some alternative to war. The Gaza
flotilla affair should teach Jerusalem that no matter how gingerly it
approaches the threats on its borders, and how gently it responds, it ends up
holding the bag for the region's problems. It might as well get down to the
business of war.
By coincidence, observant Jews around the world this week read Numbers 13:1 to
15:41 in synagogues, including the Biblical story of the 12 spies whom Moses
sent to scout the promised land. Joshua and Caleb argued that an invasion would
succeed, but were outvoted by the representatives of 10 of the 12 tribes. For
that display of cowardice, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert
until the entire generation that had left Egypt had died out and was succeeded
by men born into freedom. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a religious
man, but no doubt this week's Torah portion will command his undivided