Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted recently as saying the Mavi Marmara
episode marked a turning point in the Middle East.
Assad, as is his wont,
was exaggerating. As bleak as things now seem for Israel – and they do indeed
seem bleak – there is a need here for perspective.
This isn’t the first
time that Scandinavian dock workers have refused to unload Israeli
Swedish dock workers did this week; or that certain countries did not
see a visit from a high profile Israeli personage, as was the case when
President Shimon Peres canceled a trip to Vietnam, and Foreign Minister
Lieberman postponed a trip to Costa Rica; or that rock groups have
appearances because of turmoil here.
We have gone through all of this
before. We went through it during the outbreak of the second intifada in
and the pictures beamed around the world that appeared to show IDF
shooting 12- year-old Muhammad al-Dura, during Operation Defensive
the Jenin “massacre” in 2002, and during the Second Lebanon War in
And that was all during the past decade.
censure, the threats and the isolation we have weathered before. We will
weather them again.
The addition of an extremely problematic Turkish prime
minister throws a new, dangerous wrench into the works, but – as
rightly pointed out on the radio Sunday – Iran was also once a strategic
Will it be easy if Turkey is added to our list of enemies? Obviously
not. But will it bring about an end to the Zionist enterprise? Let’s all
our heads about us.
But Assad was right in saying the event marked a
turning point, though not necessarily in the way he meant it. The
likely be a turning point for the make-up of the Netanyahu
Just as the Second Lebanon War marked the beginning of the end
of Ehud Olmert’s term in office, so, too, the Mavi Marmara
incident will likely
come to be seen as the catalyst for changes that will likely take place
The early-morning incident off the coast of Gaza,
where IDF soldiers were beaten and nine Turks were killed, has already
set off a
chain of events that will most likely end in a few months time with
leader Tzipi Livni – the same Livni who in the Knesset on Monday
government – sitting with Netanyahu at the cabinet table.
The events of
last Monday morning have had a traumatic impact on the Israeli psyche on
The first was seeing the pictures of soldiers – youth
with whom everyone here can identify – being lowered like guppies into a
sharks and then being beaten to within an inch of their lives.
was fury at the thugs for doing this to our boys, and then anger at the
authorities for putting the soldiers in that nightmarish situation.
second plane was the embarrassment this caused. What happened to the
Israeli ingenuity, guile, wisdom and creativity? We like to think of
as smart, relying on our wits – rather than our numbers – to survive in
extremely difficult neighborhood. And when something like this happens,
something which on the face of it seems so stupid, there is bound to be a
backlash against the politicians who okayed the plan.
Which is where we
are right now. The predictable argument currently raging over the nature
investigative committee is not merely over what role the international
will play, but also about what authority the committee will have, and
will be able to make recommendations that might cost some people their
Remember, the Winograd Committee that investigated the Second
Lebanon War did in the end lead to Amir Peretz’s ouster from the Defense
Ministry and his replacement by Ehud Barak. Then-prime minister Ehud
on, but his premiership was never the same.
Over the next few weeks there
will be intense pressure on Livni to enter the government, both public
and from within her own Kadima Party. With it clear that it is nearly
for her to bring down he government, even if the Labor Party bolts –
unlikely as long as Barak remains at its head – she will likely find a
get into the government.
And Binyamin Netanyahu, under extreme pressure
from almost every quarter to take the initiative, will also likely find a
bring her in. Almost every measured criticism of Netanyahu you read
ends with a single suggestion: For Israel to end its isolation,
to take the initiative and do something to throw the ball into the
The problem is that it is difficult to take an initiative if the
other side – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – has no
responding. It takes two hands to clap, and Abbas has no reason to want
with Netanyahu since he is probably thinking that all the pressure
against Israel will eventually bring the prime minister down. Why should
to take Netanyahu’s coals out of the fire? Which means that if Netanyahu
to initiate something, the only real place he can do so is domestically –
initiating a change of government, changing the coalition guidelines and
bringing Livni into the cabinet as foreign minister.
Such a move would
also likely improve Israel’s standing internationally, since Livni –
Netanyahu or Lieberman – is perceived as someone “committed to peace.”
no little irony in the fact that the Olmert-Livni government was largely
the West as a government of peace, even though under Olmert’s watch
two wars: one in Lebanon and the other in Gaza. It was all a matter of
perception, with Livni and Olmert benefitting because twice a week Livni
with former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei and Olmert met once a month
Netanyahu is not meeting with any Palestinians, though not because
he doesn’t want to, and the perception is that he does not want to move
diplomatic process forward and that the current stalemate is his doing.
Netanyahu may not be able to change the reality because he will need a
cooperative Abbas (something he won’t get). But a coalition change,
the current crisis, might actually lead to a change of perception.