…[T]here were very good reasons for isolating Hamas and attempting to contain the Gaza Strip. True, the government in charge of Gaza is a headache for Israel. But it is no less of a nuisance to the legitimate representative of the Palestinians—the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Those who want to strengthen the parties of peace have a choice to make: Recognizing Hamas would signal that the Palestinian Authority could no longer claim to represent the people of Gaza. It would signal that the world is willing to work with a bully, with a group refusing to commit—even rhetorically—to the cause of peace, that it has given up on a better life for the Palestinians of Gaza.
Read the whole thing — it is subtle and insightful.
Ari Shavit points out that the Israeli government has managed the neat trick of dividing her friends while simultaneously uniting her enemies:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon are supposed to know history. They are supposed to know there was no greater mistake than that of the British with regard to the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in the summer of 1947. The brutality employed by the British Mandate against a ferry loaded with Jewish refugees turned the regime into an object of revile. It lost what is now called international legitimacy. British rule over the country ended just 10 months after the Exodus fiasco.
The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was no Exodus. It carried not Holocaust survivors but provocateurs, many of them extremists. But a series of baseless decisions on the part of the prime minister and the ministers of defense and of strategic affairs turned the Marmara into a Palestinian Exodus. With a single foolish move, the Israeli cabinet cast the Muslim Brotherhood in the role of the victim and the Israel Navy as the villain and simultaneously opened European, Turkish, Arab, Palestinian and internal Israeli fronts. In so doing, Israel is serving Hamas’ interests better than Hamas itself has ever done.
It was pretty obvious that the incident was meant to provoke a response from Israel. It was supposed to be a moral dilemma that put Israel in a difficult position — one where they had to choose between difficult outcomes, none of which cast them in a favorable light. It was a political trap with minimal military impact.
What happened to Israel’s vaunted creativity? Why was the worst of all possible options chosen? Where was the army chief of staff? Where were the intelligence services? Why did we walk into this trap, which we managed to avoid in all the years of the second intifada, with our eyes open? Why didn’t we see that instead of tightening the siege on Gaza, we were about to tighten the siege on ourselves?
I think we can all agree that the people of Gaza need food and medicine. I think that we can all agree that Israel has to make sure that she is not a patsy for terrorists wanting to exploit that situation. So let’s have the US government oversee an arrangement whereby anyone wishing to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza — in whatever volume it can muster — agrees to land their aircraft, dock their ships, and/or pass through checkpoints designated and maintained by the Israeli government for the purpose of inspecting the contents of this aid. In addition, the Israelis agree to check the contents in an expedited manner — within 24-36 hours — and allow all humanitarian aid to enter Gaza immediately.