Some random thoughts and questions on the IDF attack on the flotilla attempting to run the Gaza blockade:
- "Hey, I have a great idea! Let's send our commandos aboard the ship one at a time, so that they can be jumped and easily separated from each other!" Seriously, who planned that boarding operation? I am not a professional military tactician, but sending your soldiers into a potentially violent situation one at a time strikes me as the height of bone-headedness. (UPDATE: I'm not the only one who thought this.)
- Is this blockade legal, according to international law? Israel thinks it's legal, but what do other nations think? The UN? The US? If it wasn't legal, then wasn't this attack an act of piracy? If the blockade is legal, then doesn't Israel have a responsibility to maintain the well-being of civilians under that blockade?
- Why does Egypt help Israel enforce the blockade on Gaza? What does Egypt get out of this? Are they trying to cozy up to the United States? Make nice with Israel? Do they have their own beef with Gazans? Is it because they fear Islamist movements are a threat to their own government?
- Israel is a lousy client state. We give them military aid, a security guarantee, vetoes in the UN Security Council, and diplomatic cover. What do we get? Headaches, ill-will in a strategically important part of the world, and diplomatic snubs like the one suffered recently during Biden's visit. Really, all moral questions aside, what are we getting out of this alliance? Didley squat as far as I can tell.
- Israel is the new Cuba. By "Cuba" I mean a small country which receives a disproportionate amount of our attention and towards which we have a warped foreign policy due to entrenched domestic political considerations? Shouldn't we "normalize" our relationship with Israel, just as we should normalize our relationship with Cuba? (Dan Drenzer compares the US-Israel relationship to the China-North Korea relationship.)
- If the US really did try to influence Israel's behavior re: the Gaza blockade, settlement construction, invading Lebanon, etc., how much leverage does the United States really have? Maybe all that aid and diplomatic cover isn't actually buying us the influence we think it is. Of course, we'll never find out if we have any leverage if we never try to use it.
- Will US domestic attitudes towards Israel change in light of the recent flotilla attack? This is probably the biggest question as far as US policy towards Israel goes. I've noticed a swing in the blogosphere to a more critical stance towards Israel, and Beinart's recent New York Review of Books article on the divergence of liberalism and Zionism has provoked a big discussion.
- What are the ties that bind Israel and the United States? How strong are they compared to the forces that are pushing Israel and the US apart?