Days have passed since the so-called ‘Gaza Flotilla’ was brutally raided by Israeli forces. As usual in these cases, I tend to take my time before writing my opinion. Let me start from some simple observations:
The Gaza blockade is irrational. It breaches international law and affects the most vulnerable people within Gaza. By contrast, politically, it reinforces Hamas. Indeed, anybody with even a minimum of knowledge or contacts in Gaza knows that supporting Hamas or becoming an active member remains the only solution to enjoy some benefits and relieve one’s family from the hardship of the illegal embargo, enjoying the few products smuggled through the endless number of Egyptian border tunnels controlled by Hamas.
The international community, to varying degrees, starts to see Israel as a serious obstacle to peace in the Middle East and a danger to the stability of the region. The International pressure to end the blockade of Gaza is a request for a symbolic act which should mark much deeper changes by Israel, which, after the invasion of Iraq by the US, is slowly but progressively losing its strategic value for the ‘west’.
Both Hamas and the right-wing Israeli government have more to lose than gain from a stable peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Year by year, Turkey’s role within the Middle East becomes more prominent.
The former ‘allies’ of Israel have changed the political game. Turkey tried to join the European Union (following the steps of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), which responded by slowing down the process of membership of its only Muslim majority country. Now, Turkey seems to rediscover the role that, in its Ottoman Empire past, it had within the Middle East and the hegemony it enjoyed until the Great War. The role that Turkey can potentially have in the pacification and reshaping of the Middle East cannot be underestimated.
Israel’s brutal attack of the ‘Gaza Flotilla’ could be read as part of a complex political dynamic and strategy. First of all, I am sure that some of the people on the flotilla, under Turkish sponsorship, embarked on the journey not just for humanitarian reasons but also to increase the political tension and provide Turkey with a great opportunity to change its own politics within the region.
Indeed, some were not, in my opinion, just ‘hot heads‘ who happened to defend themselves during the attack, but rather part of a mission to provoke in order to have the desired, and easily imagined, reaction from the Israeli forces. However, the other side of the coin is that Israel deployed a very unprofessional unit that was incapable of conducting a ‘police’ mission. Reading the news and reports, even from the Israeli side, it appears that the commando was provided with the wrong information and lacked any real centralized control.
This resulted in an inevitable disaster. Some of the Israeli special units did not expect any resistance, and when the faced it, they resorted to the only thing they know how to do well, shoot-to-kill. The Israeli government knew what their soldiers might have encountered. Yet the inevitable ‘disaster’ was useful to both countries, for different, of course, reasons.
Since a trustworthy and independent international inquiry under the UN will never be held, we will never know who set the trap for whom. Yet to read the “Gaza flotilla” disaster, on the one hand, as another brutal action by a state that increasingly seems to speak the language of violence, or, on the other hand, as an action of heroic resistance by peaceful humanitarian volunteers would be extremely naive.
To make sense of this event we have to understand that a stable peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and the two state solution would politically normalize Israel. In this case, a certain political class, which in one way or another has ruled the country since its foundation, would face the consequences of the endemic corruption that affects the state and a disenchanted young Israeli population that increasingly faces challenges within its own society.
In other words, the first generation of Zionists that rule Israel today cannot survive without the conflict. Israel has thus decided to adopt an ‘autistic’ political spectrum in which tensions with the international community (including the US) as well as aggressive politics towards Palestinians and Arabs have the ‘internal’ benefit of maintaining the Israeli society under the control of a government and a political system which is, in reality, the real threat to the security of the country.
From this perspective, the major Israeli diplomatic blunders, such as the persistent bombing of Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, committing war crimes in the attack on Gaza long after the operation had achieved its main key objectives, announcing the expansion of Israeli building programs in east Jerusalem to embarrass the U.S. president in a very delicate moment in his efforts to put Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track, and finally sending a disastrous and incompetent commando unit to seize a Turkish ship in the attempt to stop the ‘peace flotilla’ going to Gaza as well as an incredible and unacceptable number of planned gaffes, make total sense.
The sarcastic and annoying attitude of Israel towards the rest of the world reinforces a certain Israeli political clique which, after sixty years, has very few options for its own survival. If a biblical reference should be used to represent the obtuse political actions of this Israeli government, probably the best one would be “Let me die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30)