Pixel Tracker

Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 10:59 pm | Fair 51º


Joe Conason: Israel from 10,000 Feet

The flotilla fiasco only further isolates Israel from its friends and encourages its foes

The government of Israel is supposedly run by the Jewish state’s toughest and most ardent defenders, but so far they have inflicted worse damage on its security and its future than its enemies ever could. By treating a Gaza-bound aid flotilla as a military threat, killing nine civilians and imprisoning hundreds more, that government achieved the only foreseeable outcome: another episode of international isolation and internal demoralization.

Joe Conason
Joe Conason

Whether Israel’s commandos committed any criminal acts will be determined by investigation, but in the meantime it is safe to say that what happened was not only wrong but exceptionally stupid. Yet while shortsighted brutality has long been a hallmark of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, that tendency is now clearly undermining the strategic interests of both Israel and its traditional friends, including the United States.

Consider the events during the past two years that have led up to this moment. The war on Gaza, initially justified by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, was grossly disproportional and resulted in war crimes against Palestinians that completely overshadowed the casus belli. Since then, the blockade of Gaza has stopped humanitarian assistance and prevented reconstruction — which has only provoked worldwide support for Hamas’ human rights complaints against Israel.

Meanwhile, that war proceeded covertly, as well, leading to the clumsiest intelligence operation in Israel’s history — the murder of a Hamas official in Dubai by agents who left behind copious evidence of connections with Mossad. That evidence included passports issued by friendly nations, which, of course, strained diplomatic relationships with them. Worse, the choice of Dubai as an assassination location put severe pressure on Israel’s unofficial but strong relationship with the United Arab Emirates — a powerful force for moderation and tolerance in the region and beyond.

Whatever Hamas lost when Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was throttled in a Dubai hotel room, the damage to Israel was considerably greater.

Certainly the same can be said of the latest fiasco, which has severely damaged if not ruined Israel’s long-standing ties with Turkey, whose citizens were among those killed and apprehended in the flotilla attack. Until Sunday evening, the Islamic government of Turkey was prepared to permit its army to participate in joint exercises with the Israel Defense Forces — a stunning development that shows just what Israel’s government so casually risked.

Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government seem blithely unaware or uncaring in the wake of its ruinous actions. The question that Israel’s friends must ask is the same question that sane Israelis are now openly asking themselves: What is their government’s strategy?

Indeed, what strategy could these tactics possibly serve to advance? How is their survival, let alone their future peace and prosperity, enhanced by behavior that alienates every friend and potential friend, while encouraging every foe and creating more of them?

If Israel and the United States believe that the most important security problem is Iran and that regime’s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, then the sane response is to build regional and global alliances in response. Iran’s neighbors in the Gulf are almost as unhappy about that looming threat as Israel is. A wise policy would draw those states into regional security arrangements and enhance connections with them.

Of course, that kind of policy would mean refraining from such destructive acts as the Gaza blockade, the Dubai assassination and the flotilla attack. It would require the serious pursuit of renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians, so that Iran — not Israel — would face isolation. And that, in turn, would demand the end of settlement construction and the acknowledgment that Jerusalem is an international holy place that cannot be controlled by a single state.

As former President Bill Clinton bluntly reminded Israelis in Jerusalem last winter, none of the fundamental factors that imperil the Jewish state’s democratic and peaceful future have changed since his own peacemaking efforts ended in frustration. How unfortunate — and dangerous — that the Netanyahu government is so determined to ignore his warning as its strategic position deteriorates.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.