"Free Gaza" Flotilla Defeats the Israel Defense Forces
by Daniel Pipes
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One of the most important rules for a strategist is not to be put on the defensive. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, developed this concept into a doctrine of forward defense that brilliantly served his state in its early years.
Israel's command structure, having mastered the old ways of war (the ones that lasted to 1973), has shown utter strategic incompetence at the new ways of war (in place since 1982). The new rules require an agile sense of public relations, which means that a powerful state never physically harms, even inadvertently, its rag-tag political adversaries.
Rachel Corrie has been an albatross around Israel's neck since 2003; today's dead on the seas off Gaza will prove an even worse source of anti-Zionism. Thus did the "armada of hate and violence" achieve its purpose. Thus did the Israelis fall into a trap. (May 31, 2010)
June 1, 2010 update: As sometimes happens, lots of readers were not satisfied with my analysis, this time of the "Free Gaza Flotilla" episode. Some put it nicely:
Others are more incensed:
(1) I cannot offer a detailed alternative, for I am not on the scene, I lack the relevant knowledge and experience, plus I am a strategist, setting out the broad outlines to win, not a tactician, figuring out implementation in detail. I do know that Israeli soldiers should never have rappelled their way into the trap on the Mavi Marmara. They should have had intelligence about the ship's passengers' readiness for a clash and found some way to avert a bloody confrontation. That might have meant boarding the ship with protective gear; anchoring it at sea; deploying the Long Range Acoustical Device or a dazzling laser; or towing the ship to an Israeli harbor.
(2) This incident fits a larger pattern, for Palestinians and their supporters are wising up and finding creative ways to impugn Israel in world opinion. Supermarkets in Norway refuse Israeli produce, universities in the United Kingdom break relations with Israeli counterparts, and so on. Palestinians a while back organized a march from Jordan to the Israeli border. Currently, they are boycotting West Bank products made by Israelis. Will Jerusalem finally learn to take this challenge seriously? For some thoughts by specialists on the matter, see my extracts from a thoughtful article by Leslie Susser.
(3) This is not an exclusively Israeli dilemma but one that extends across the Western world. Israel just feels it first and hardest, as so often is the case.
June 4, 2010 update: Two aphoristic thoughts:
June 6, 2010 update: "Where was Mossad?" I have been wondering. Hundreds of stray people on a ship and Israel's vaunted intelligence service has no idea what is going on there – something's wrong with this picture. Yossi Melman asked the same question of Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, former head of the research arm of Military Intelligence and head of the Defense Ministry's political-security branch and was told that "Turkey has never been included in [Israel's] intelligence coverage. The intelligence [service] can't collect data on everything; it has limited resources."
Comment: Israel's authorities, like other Western governments, has not yet woken up to the profound transformation in Turkey. Maybe this shock will change things.
June 8, 2010 update: Survey research of 500 Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews asked questions over the telephone yesterday finds corroboration of an inability to understand the new kind of war. Here are answers to the two relevant questions asked by Pechter Middle East Polls, with the to-me striking replies bolded:
Comment: The clueless Israeli leaders seem reflect the sentiments of a clueless body politic.
June 10, 2010 update: In an interesting piece of bravado, Robert Weissberg (emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Urbana) argues that "Israel is Winning Not Losing the War" – in other words, precisely the opposite of what I maintain. Weissberg's analysis jibes with mine:
Our difference is that I emphasize the importance of this new reality and he dismisses it:
Given a choice, I'll also take the latter. But that's no reason to sit back complacently and dismiss the policy of delegitimization as "largely harmless but seriously annoying." Israel's enemies wish to turn it into the new apartheid South Africa and they are steadily gaining.
June 10, 2010 update bis: We might soon have a chance to see if the Israelis learned a lesson from the flotilla fiasco. "Lebanese Threaten Mass March on Israeli Border" reports Hillel Fendel for Arutz 7:
Comment: A century ago, who imagined that Jews one day as the great warriors and Arabs as the great publicists?
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