The Gaza Flotilla: A Collapse of Israel's Political Firewall
Background and Introduction
On the morning of Monday, May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandos took over six ships en route to Gaza. These ships comprised an international flotilla whose aim, according to its organizers, was to break the 'Israeli siege' of Gaza (the Gaza Flotilla).
This was the fourth flotilla in the framework of what is known as the 'Lifeline to Gaza' Campaign. Israel had previously succeeded in preventing a military confrontation with ships attempting to dock in Gaza, either towing the vessels into the port of Ashdod, coordinating with Egypt to divert the ships to El-Arish, or allowing their entry into Gaza. Indeed, Israel managed to take over five of the six vessels in the aforementioned flotilla without violence.
A grave incident developed during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara, the sixth vessel of the Gaza Flotilla. Members of the Turkish IHH organization attacked Israeli forces with knives and metal bars, and in some cases, with live fire. In the ensuing confrontation, nine Israeli soldiers were injured and nine Turkish IHH activists killed. Dozens of activists were wounded as well.
The Gaza Flotilla had tangible consequences in terms of Israel's security and foreign affairs. These included: anti-Israel demonstrations across the world; a change in Israeli policies regarding Gaza, perceived to constitute a capitulation to violence; increased attempts to boycott Israel and a wave of cancellations of concerts by leading international artists; the establishment of a number of international investigation commissions challenging Israel's judicial system; and stronger perception of cooperation between Israel's Arab citizens and the Resistance and Delegitimization Networks. In addition, the event was exploited by the Turkish government in order to exacerbate the crisis with Israel.
Following the Gaza Flotilla, the Government of Israel decided to establish two commissions of inquiry. The first, under the leadership of Major General (Res.) Giora Eiland, received a mandate to investigate the decisions taken by the military echelon, has already concluded its report and published some of its conclusions. The second, headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Jacob Turkel is a National Commission of Inquiry, and is due to investigate international legal aspects related to the flotilla, as well as to the legality of the Gaza blockade. The State Comptroller has also announced his intentions to investigate the affair.
The Reut Institute believes the mandates of both commissions to reflect the mindset that mistakes surrounding the Gaza Flotilla were technical-operational or tactical-political in nature. The commissions are thus focused on the reasonableness of the actions taken by decision-makers based on existing laws, regulations, and accepted practices.
Hence, Reut decided to conduct its own inquiry, based on a methodology of systemic policy analysis and on its conceptual framework for confronting the delegitimization challenge, entitled, 'Israel's Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall.' The aim of Reut's inquiry is to contribute to the understanding the strategic significance of the event and to suggest principles for preventing similar occurrences in the future.
Reut views this case study as a starting point of a longer 'open-source' process of knowledge development in partnership with the public, regarding the significance of the Gaza Flotilla, as well as the relevant conclusions and recommendations. It is therefore our intention to other organizations and the general public to offer their insights as well.
Delegitimization of Israel
Reut's analysis contends that the Gaza Flotilla should be viewed as the latest manifestation of a systemic and systematic attack on Israel's political and economic model, rooted in undermining Israel's legitimacy.
“The next confrontation in the efforts to break the siege on Gaza will be directly with the Zionist enemy on the high seas.” Mohammed Sawalha, interview on Hezbollah Web site Al-Intiqad, January 2010
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