The Gaza-bound protestors would not dare behave that way vis-à-vis the Turkish, American, or even Italian Navy. Despite Israel’s immense power, the Jewish State repeatedly finds itself in situations where it refrains from using its force wisely.
In a previous article, I urged Defense Minister Ehud Barak to weigh his steps carefully and utilize the Gaza flotilla in order to secure a diplomatic achievement: End what is mistakenly referred to as “the Israeli occupation of Gaza.” However, Barak was too arrogant. He thought he could have the cake and eat it too, thereby ordering the IDF to adopt an impossible policy: Stopping the flotilla using force, while doing it without using force. We see the result before us now.
So how would any other navy enforce a naval blockade? First, a clear warning in English: Turn back or we shall fire. Next, A shot across the bow – a last warning to show the seriousness of our intentions. Finally, firing at the vessel’s propeller, in a bid to paralyze the ship’s sailing and steering capabilities.
Only then, and only after allowing the ship to be tossed from side to side under the sun, the time would come for taking over the vessel using massive force: Clearing away the decks using water hoses, splashing oil on its windows, ramming into the vessel, and finally staging the takeover.
This is how any self-respecting Navy would conduct itself. However, there is only one problem here: The utilization of force and fire, which is precisely what Barak wanted to avoid. He feared the images, and therefore ordered the takeover to get underway at early morning hours, much before the ships crossed into Gaza’s territorial waters.
The approach chosen by Barak is weak and conveys a sense of a weakness. This was the case in previous military clashes, for example, during the period of time ahead of Operation Cast Lead. Barak threatened to seal off the Gaza Crossings, but opened them a day later.
Israel needs a defense minister who can decide when to use force and when not to use it. Israel needs a defense minister who would order the army to use the kind of force that conveys deterrence. It makes no sense to send Navy commandoes to carry out such operation – this is not the mission they were trained for.
When Israel conveys a sense of weakness is it any wonder that a mob would charge at a commando and attempt to lynch him? What were you expecting, Barak? What kind of impossible mission did you send these troops to carry out?
In the face of this weakness, various organizations are daring to rise up against Israel at this time. The continuation of the Barak policy invites provocations on the part of Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and even Arab Israelis. What exactly will Barak do if the next aid mission to Gaza is accompanied by the Turkish Navy? Will Barak launch a war against Turkey? We already know the answer.
The result of using force in the wrong case and to the wrong extent and the outcome of ordering soldiers to conduct themselves “sensitively” create the complete opposite – Israel loses its deterrent power, Israeli troops are perceived as weak, and when they encounter real distress the immediate response is the utilization of violence that makes us look very bad.
Yet what looks like Israeli brutality and stupidity has strategic implications: It creates a situation whereby Israel would not be able to use its force effectively. In the long run, it’s a recipe for regional disaster.
Yet Barak is not the only guilty party. We also have a confused Israeli government (thanks to Netanyahu) and the sense within the Arab world that the US is abandoning Israel (thanks to Obama.) Those who wish to fully grasp the implication of such dangerous combination can look at what happened at sea this morning. And this is merely the preview.
However, it’s not too late yet. Netanyahu can announce the immediate dismissal of Ehud Barak. He is at fault for the incident. Netanyahu can also announce a change in Barak’s policy of a Gaza blockade: A final and real disengagement from the Gaza Strip. If Egypt wishes to impose a siege on Gaza, it’s not Israel’s business.
Just like we do not impose a blockade on Syria or on Lebanon, we shall know where the limits of our power lie, and when we choose to use it, we won’t do it with one hand tied behind our back. Meanwhile, it would also be good to make President Obama aware of where his policy is leading to.