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Shooting itself in the foot

india Updated: Jun 01, 2010 22:15 IST

Hindustan Times
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Strange are the ways by which the State of Israel shows its sovereignty. On Monday, as part of its policy of enforcing an economic blockade of Gaza, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) troops stormed a flotilla of civilian aid ships, killing at least ten passengers and injuring many more. These ships carrying passengers that included lawmakers, writers and journalists were planning to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who have been facing severe food and medical shortages. So even if the plan was to ‘break’ the blockade, an escorted non-entry move on the part of the IDF — rather than a full-scale commando operation — should have done the needful.

International opprobrium has ensued after the attack. But Tel Aviv has, in the past, proved its machismo to itself by shrugging off such criticism; it will do so again. Coming as this attack does a day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington, Mr Netanyahu has an additional agenda, the same that he showcased when giving the go-ahead to building Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem when US Vice President Joe Biden made his trip to Israel earlier this year: to drive home the message to Washington, and thereby to the world at large, that Israel can do whatever it likes, all in the name of its sovereign right to protect itself. But what is even more astounding is the realpolitik-diplomatic disaster that Mr Netanyahu’s unleashed in his dealings with Israel’s one open ally from the Muslim world, Turkey, in Monday’s attack. The flotilla under attack was sponsored by Turkey, the bulk of fatalities being Turkish passengers. It’s well nigh impossible that the IDF was unaware of this fact. If the increasingly Islamicist Turkish government ever needed an excuse to break the alliance with Israel, it certainly has been provided one.

Since the Palestinian group Hamas won the elections in the Gaza area in south-western Israel in 2006, defeating its Fatah rivals and taking over the administration of the area the following year, Israel (and Fatah-backing Egypt) reimposed an economic blockade on Gaza that was on and off in place since 2000. The blockade’s been an unsubtle attempt to wean support away from Hamas, and yet the results have been quite the opposite. If the actions and policies of Mr Netanyahu are to be explained by his desire to ‘neutralise’ an increasingly belligerent Iran, for which he does find support among the international community, Monday’s operation has certainly swung the pendulum against Israel’s favour. All one can smell is overreach, overkill and a deepening complex in Israel’s dealings with the world in which it has no qualms leaving even its traditional allies in a sticky, embarrassingly difficult situation.>