If you think about it, Israel’s calculated murder of peace activists on a mission to break the siege of Gaza makes perfect sense. A lot of observers were baffled that Netanyahu’s government inflated the importance of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was delivering vital humanitarian aid to the largest concentration camp in the world but had the secondary mission of publicizing the brutal and illegal siege of Gaza. To casual observers, it seemed like Israel’s belligerent posture was amplifying the international media attention given to the flotilla. It seemed so counter-productive for the Israelis to hand the peace activists what amounted to a nuclear powered bull horn.
The only excuse that Netanyahu and Lieberman could make for their seemingly irrational obsession with the supply ships was that the peace activists on board where delegitimizing Israel. The Israelis couldn’t make the usual ‘security’ arguments about terrorist threats — not with so many unarmed European Parliamentarians and peace activists on board. So they dreamed up a new category of criminals nobody has ever heard of before — de-legitimizers. There are millions of decent people who abhor Zionism and view Israel as a racist Jewish supremacist state. Israel and her supporters can argue with that, but since when has delegitimizing Israel been a capital crime that justified piracy on the high seas?
The flotilla was in international waters when it was assaulted — seventy miles from its destination. It was a pre-dawn raid and, in an operation of this sort, the darkness elevated the risk of inflicting unnecessary casualties. Quite a few journalists were on board and the dark offered the Israelis a veil to ward off any cameras that could clearly document that the violence was premeditated.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that this Israeli raid was planned, perfectly timed and achieved its desired objective: to scuttle a scheduled meeting with Obama. What else would explain the hurry? Was there a clock ticking away? The answer to that question is yes. Only a few precious hours remained for Netanyahu to weasel his way out of an appointment at the White House. That might help explain the smug self-satisfied look on Netanyahu’s face when he announced the cancellation of the visit.
The scheduled meeting at the White House was no ordinary tete-a-tete. It was a carefully orchestrated event. A week earlier, Obama had dispatched Rahm Emanuel to Jerusalem to butter up Netanyahu. According to news reports, Israel’s prime minister was given “unequivocal assurances” from the US President that an accord agreeing to talks on a nuclear weapons-free Mideast would not endanger the Jewish state. The assurances included a significant upgrade of Israel’s strategic and deterrent capabilities and a promise that no UN resolutions would be adopted that would hurt Israel’s ‘vital interests.’ One has to presume that Obama’s promises included blanket amnesty for last year’s war crimes in Gaza. As a bonus, Netanyahu stopped in Europe to pick up membership in the OECD — making Israel the only wealthy country in the world to get lavish American aid.
Of course, Obama and the Europeans expected a little reciprocity and a more flexible Israeli posture in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. It was Netanyahu’s turn to give a little. There was talk in the press of a love fest where a ‘new and improved’ Netanyahu would make an appearance and be willing to make a few hard choices to end the interminable conflict. The Lithuanian-Israeli prime minister who opposed Camp David, the Oslo agreement and the withdrawal from Gaza was under pressure to deliver the goods.
Sabotaging peace initiatives is something the Israelis excel at and Netanyahu is a skilled practitioner of obstructionism. Lest we forget, he secured the position of prime minister by putting together the most right wing coalition in Israeli history. He leads a government that is made up of pro-settler parties and outright expulsionists. Freezing settlements or withdrawing from the West Bank or making any kinds of concessions on East Jerusalem would unravel his government.
Netanyahu didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. There was a strategic imperative to create a crisis to justify canceling the meeting with Obama. Murdering the peace activists on the high seas was a high risk maneuver and it came at a well calibrated cost. Let’s first dispel the rumor that Israel is or has ever been concerned with its international reputation. Notice that it was Netanyahu who canceled the White House appointment. Why the rush to get back to Israel? Was there any better way to do a little damage control than by making a few concessions in Washington in front of the fawning lenses of pro-Israeli CNN cameras? But the White House was the last place the Israeli prime minister wanted to be. And if all it took was piracy and murder on the high seas, it was a price Netanyahu was willing to pay.
Israel’s has a well established record of planning and executing premeditated atrocities. They’ve shot Libyan passenger planes out of the sky and carpet bombed Gaza, South Lebanon and Beirut. One can go down the list of infamous massacres from Sabra and Shatilla to Jenin to Deir El Yassin, Qibya and a hundred other places where they’ve slaughtered innocents. Aside from the attack on the Liberty, the only thing that distinguishes this latest war crime is that the victims were not Palestinians or Arabs. With the assistance of the Jewish Lobby and their well-placed partisans at FOX noise and CNnothing, Israel always manages to wipe the incriminatory blood stains off its garments and make a miraculous recovery as the perpetual victim.
Anybody with half a brain should be able to figure out that this most recent Israeli atrocity was premeditated. Netanyahu will pay a price and there will be a price to pay but it will be paid in short term currency. Obama might or might not figure out that he gave away the store and walked away empty handed but with mid-term elections on the horizon, he’ll still shield Israeli leaders from accountability for their war crimes. The relationship with Turkey will be strained and a few European foreign ministers will fume. The United States had no problem figuring out how to react to piracy with the Achille Lauro, but all they can muster up in response to this latest act of Israeli state terrorism is a benign statement of ‘concern.’ Washington might even work up the courage to ask the Israelis to conduct an inquiry. Israel will be ostracized for a few weeks but Netanyahu will have accomplished his goal by derailing yet another peace initiative and winning additional time to continue building settlements and dispossess the Palestinians of their native soil.