I have been all over the web over the past few days trying to form an articulate opinion of what went down with the so called Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As most of you know by now, there were 6 boats with some 8oo "activists" heading from the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza with humanitarian aid. Some of these people had pure intentions, namely to deliver basic goods to the citizens of Gaza. However, I write activists in quotes because it is clear from video footage that many of the people on board the biggest ship had sinister, premeditated intentions.
The actions of the militant activists put Israel in a lose-lose situation. As I wrote to Max Finder a couple of days ago: On the one hand, I don't think anybody on the Israeli side wanted to get on that boat, and definitely not in the middle of the night. On the other hand, there was a period of a few hours where the Israeli Navy was contacting the boats telling them not to go to Gaza, that the goods could be processed through legal ways via Israel or Egypt and more. In essence, Israel gave the people on the boat every opportunity to safely deliver the humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. 5 of the 6 boats acquiesced and docked safely in Ashdod, while the infamous 6th one continued heading toward Gaza in the late hours of the night, eventually just stopped responding to the Navy, and all the while had a coordinated a plan of attack for what they knew they were forcing--an Israeli takeover of the ship.
P.R. wise it well done: everyone knows that Israel is never going to win a public relations battle, ever. Obviously it is extremely a) sad that lives were lost and b) frustrating that the whole thing was such a debacle from the get go, but I'm not so sure Israel was in the wrong by commandeering the boat as a last possible option...
Thus, my take on the situation from here on out. I tend to err on the side of Dershowitz when it comes to anything legal: I do truly believe Israel was within its international rights to act the way it did, when it did, in order to enforce the blockade. Indeed, it was not until the soldiers were attacked with knives and metal rods, that pistols were stolen off the soldiers and used to shoot at the soldiers with intent to kill that the Israelis moved from paint-ball guns to live ammunition. Legally speaking, I think Israel will be fine.
Regarding the blockade and what it could mean for Israel's future, check out Haaretz editor Aluf Benn's article. I can't say I've been a big Haaretz reader in the past couple of years, but I agree with almost everything he says because he, unlike most of the other articles written surrounding the topic, writes constructively and most of the time practically. Benn essentially argues that the blockade has not worked. Terrorist regime Hamas is still in complete control of the Strip and has shown no sign of weakening; a new generation of Gazan citizens is growing up to hate Israel (instead of Hamas) because of the despicable hate education Hamas spews, but also because their government blames everything that goes wrong in Gaza, everything they have promised to provide but failed to, on the Israeli blockade.
Benn's proposed solution? Israel should complete the disengagement it began in Summer 2005. It should keep its borders sealed with Gaza and seal them high and wide, it should cut all ties the two countries share (he specifically alludes to target dates for electric, water, and currency severs), and let Gaza freely get its resources via Egypt and sea trade. If the rockets start coming again, and yes they will probably start coming again once Hamas can easily get more weapons in through their newly eased trade routes, Israel will at first show restraint. Israel will be prudent and for a time not respond. Acting completely out of their own volition as the democratically elected government of the people of Gaza, Hamas will be given a true chance to present itself to its people and to the international stage. If they prove themselves to be friendly after all, then no one will be happier than its peace loving neighbors in Israel. However, if they choose to continue to attack Israel's citizens with rockets and terrorist attacks, Israel will have international support if they need to responsively attack the sovereign entity of Gaza. Hamas will finally have run out of excuses to blame Israel, and so will the world.