Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Free Gaza Boat Trip--Now What?

Writing about the media coverage of "Free Gaza" in a post for Pajamas Media, Lisa Goldman notes:
The Israeli media pretty much ignored the story — except for Haaretz, of course. And the international media lost interest as soon as Israel announced it did not intend to stop the boats from landing or its passengers from disembarking. (No blood, no story.)

So the boats landed without incident. After basking in the excited greetings of several hundred Palestinians who gathered on the beach, the passengers disembarked and went off to visit Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

...Asked whether he didn’t think that being associated with kooky people like Yvonne Ridley detracted from Free Gaza’s credibility, Halper answered, “Oh, she was not the kookiest one on board.” But he added, “You cannot control every person who joins an organization. I think we’re a solid group and we really accomplished something positive.”

For many observers, however, the Free Gaza expedition was nothing more than a pointless media stunt. It garnered little international media attention, did not improve the lives of Gazans, and is unlikely to result in the Israeli authorities’ deciding to relinquish control of Gaza’s borders. Nor is Hamas likely to disavow terror or recognize Israel’s right to exist.

In a region where violence and political upheaval are daily occurrences, it will take more than a media event to effect real change. [emphasis added]
It's all very well to say that Israel does not want to relinquish control of Gaza's borders, the question is what Israel is going to do about it. Months ago, when Hamas threatened to allow Gazans to flood into Israel as they had entered in Egypt, it was not clear what Israel could do to stop it--and in the end, it remained only a threat.

But now, with the possibility of more such boats--and the intention to ferry Palestinian Arabs out of Gaza--what options does Israel have? More is at stake then just transfering people. Caroline Glick writes in Calling Israel's Bluff:
Israel is fully cognizant of what these Hamas collaborators are up to. It knows they are trying to force the country to concede its vital interest in maintaining the blockade to prevent massive quantities of heavy weaponry from being brought into Iran's Hamas-controlled enclave. Israel understands what is at stake. But it has absolutely no idea how to contend with this new challenge. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post over the weekend, defense officials said that they have no policy for contending with additional ships in international waters that set sail for Gaza with the declared aim of ending Israel's blockade of the coastline.
According to Glick, while it is all very nice for Olmert to claim that his decision to do nothing deprived Free Gaza and Hamas of a media spectacle, the fact remains that 2 strategic failings were revealed:
o "In standing down in the face of Hamas's high seas challenge, Israel demonstrated yet again that it prefers to capitulate rather than pay a price to defend its vital interests." 

o "The blockade runners were also quick to capitalize on was Israel's other major failing: Its consistent refusal to recognize and contend with the role of international collaborators in advancing the Palestinian war effort against it."
Read the whole thing.

It now remains to be seen whether Hamas will take advantage of what may be a new front in the war between Israel and Hamas.

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