Summary: As I wrote 3 years ago, America has made many geopolitical mistakes, some very serious. Nothing critical for a superpower, so long as we do not make too many. But Israel operates far closer to the edge. Small, geographically and economically vulnerable, surrounded by enemies, and heir to millennia of western antisemitism (Passages from Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies could be read with applause at some American universities). This insecurity makes them more likely to take bold gambles — and increases the odds of mistakes having horrible consequences. They may have just made a big mistake, with potentially horrible consequences.
The forces at work were described in The Fate of Israel (July 2006) and Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran (December 2007). Stratfor describes how this plays out today.
On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.
A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.
The ‘Exodus’ Scenario