Tuesday, June 01, 2010


"Internationally, there is little doubt that the incident will generate a firestorm. Certainly, Turkey will break cooperation with Israel. Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States — by far the most important in the equation — might shift to a “plague-on-both-your-houses” position.

While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel’s isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen.

The tougher Israel is, the more the flotilla’s narrative takes hold. As the Zionists knew in 1947 and the Palestinians are learning, controlling public opinion requires subtlety, a selective narrative and cynicism. As they also knew, losing the battle can be catastrophic. It cost Britain the Mandate and allowed Israel to survive. Israel’s enemies are now turning the tables. This maneuver was far more effective than suicide bombings or the Intifada in challenging Israel’s public perception and therefore its geopolitical position (though if the Palestinians return to some of their more distasteful tactics like suicide bombing, the Turkish strategy of portraying Israel as the instigator of violence will be undermined).

Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.

And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it".

George Friedman, "Flotillas and Wars of Public Opinion," 31 May 2010, in www.stratfor.com

"The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.

The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza. We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international NGOs and the UN, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction materials, through the border crossings, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. However, Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and work of nongovernmental organizations, and its use and endorsement of violence, complicates efforts in Gaza. Mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by governments and groups that wish to do so. These mechanisms should be used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region."

Philip J. Crowley, Official State Department statement on 'Free Gaza Flotilla,'
31 May 2010, in www.state.gov.

"C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute."

Comte Charles Maurce de Talleyrand-Perigord, on the official murder of the Duc d'Enghien in 1804. Also attributed to Joseph Fouche & Antoine Bourlay de la Meurthe.

Notwithstanding the undoubtedly unfortunate and most regrettable loss of life on the high seas this week-end just past, the fact of the matter is that one would have to take a rather emotional and therefore not very accurate and realistic view of things to believe that much in the way of existing circumstances, id est., realities will change as a result of this horrid incident. Just as the 'Exodus', and the fall-out from the same, did not cause the British to surrender the Palestine Mandate in 1947-1948 (the real reason is that Britain could not afford to retain the Mandate given its economic crisis at the time), it is highly unlikely, nay indeed I venture to state for the record, a complete non-possumus, to imagine that: i) the Americans will allow a Security Council condemnation of Israel to be approved. The State Department's statement is rather clear evidence of this very empirical fact; ii) that the Israeli government will phase-out the blockade of the Gaza Strip, sans the Hamas government's official recognition of Israel; iii) that the Netanyahu government will fall as a result of the fall-out from the incident; iv) that anyone outside of perhaps Turkey will do anything of substance about either 'i' or 'ii' above. Apropos the Netanyahu government falling `a la Stratfor's George Friedman. This seems an extremely unlikely result, since the operation was headed by what is seen to be the weakest link in Netanyahu's coalition: ex-premier Ehud Barak. As long as Barak's Labour Party remains in the coalition, then there are slim chances that the coalition will fall from power. As per the 'isolation' of Israel: in the absence of trade sanctions, which no one is talking of imposing, the phrase is quite meaningless. Especially, since the American Administration is incapable of even hinting at slapping Israel on the wrist, for this or any other incident. Regardless of any fantastic ideas to the contrary that one reads in the bien pensant European press (viz: The Financial Times leader for the 1st of June: "Israel lost at Sea," in www.ft.com). In short, one may agree with Talleyrand that what occurred was worse than a crime it was a mistake. Just as was said here back in January of 2009, over 'Operation Lead'. That per se, does not change the realities on the ground: that Israel has the whip hand to do as it pleases, and concretely speaking there is nothing that anyone can do about it. At least for the time being.


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