Israel's Unjustifiable, No-Win Move

I was all set to be sympathetic to the argument that the commandos who boarded the aid flotilla and killed a bunch of people were reacting to a threat; if you attack soldiers with pipes, you shouldn't be surprised if someone gets shot.  Very clearly, these guys were not the next incarnation of Gandhi; they were on that mission spoiling for a fight.

But then I realized that the ships were in international waters, and had every right to attack armed men attempting to board their ship.  It was not precisely bright, mind you--unless you're looking to die for a cause.  But Israel had no right to be there.  I think their establishment has gotten a little too caught up in the romance of illicit raids tacitly greenlighted by the US.  Suddenly every operation is Entebbe.

I mean, in the case of the Black September folks, my basic sympathies are with the Israelis.  And I'm fairly ok with bombing the incipient nuclear capacity of a near neighbor with a death with for your country.  But there is just no way to argue that this rises to the level of tracking down the folks who senselessly slaughtered your athletes, or preventing a scary neighbor from getting a nuclear bomb.  It's stopping a ship carrying food and supplies to the hungry.  It's hard to argue that Israel needed to stage this raid in international waters to stop the looming threat of . . . um . . . men with pipes.  Rather than, say, wait until the boats entered Israeli-controlled waters in the "exclusion zone" and board them (debatably) legally.

I'm with Von on this one: 

Dropping commandos one-by-one from a helicopter onto the deck of a (large) ship in international waters?  Did no one foresee the possibility that this plan, such as it was, might end badly?  And what was it going to achieve?  What was the best case scenario that would justify the international outrage from a successful raid? 

The best case was that Israel royally pissed off their one ally in the region by illegally boarding Turkish-flagged ship, forcing Turkey to abandon its basically friendly stance.  Of course, at the same time, they would have stopped the alarming flow of bandages and metal pipes into Gaza.  Yet it's hard to see how this was ever going to be a win.

This morning a bunch of people are trying to defend Israel by saying that the protesters attacked first.  No, they didn't.  Boarding someone's ship in international waters is an attack.  To put it another way, how many of the people mounting this defense would criticize Israeli sailors if they attacked a bunch of armed Palestinians who were airdropping, one by one, onto their ship, after firing tear gas grenades in to soften them up?

I am really not a fan of the brand of militant activists who go looking for a fight, and many of these folks are all too ready to look for the mote in Israel's eye while ignoring Hamas' avid desire to kill Israeli civilians. But I'm afraid Israel brought this one on themselves.  The stupidity of it is simply staggering.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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