Analysis: Land Day Protests could turn into an Israeli diplomatic debacle

There is no reason to give the world an excuse to blame Israel on a silver platter.

By
March 30, 2018 16:20
2 minute read.

The Mavi Marmara Incident

The Mavi Marmara Incident

 
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In May 2010, a Turkish flotilla set sail for the Gaza Strip. The aim was to break the blockade Israel had imposed over Gaza and bring what the organizers claimed would be humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Acting in self-defense, Israel announced that it would intercept the ships. One, though, called the Mavi Marmara, surprised the IDF. When the navy commandos fastroped onto its upper deck they were met by fierce resistance. In the clashes that ensued, nine passengers were killed and about a dozen commandos were injured.

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To the world, it made no difference that the commandos were the ones who were attacked. It made no difference that the passengers aboard the ship had prepared weapons ahead of time. It made no difference that they attacked first. The narrative that came out in the press was of Israel intercepting a so-called humanitarian ship. It didn’t make a difference that the passengers killed had attacked the soldiers. To the world, they were on a humanitarian mission. Israel was the aggressor. The truth did not make a difference.

This is the same reality Israel faced Friday along its border with the Gaza Strip. On the one hand, the IDF’s mission was to stop Palestinians from breaching the border and violating Israeli sovereignty. To do that, force was needed and as of Friday night, Palestinians reported 16 dead protesters.

While that might have achieved the mission of preventing infiltrations, it has the potential to defeat the ultimate objective of making it clear to the world that Israel is not the aggressor and not the instigator. On Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a probe into the clashes and, in Washington, the State Department warned both sides to lower tensions.

The consequences are obvious. The world today knows that Hamas is responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip. The recent discovery of terror tunnels under the border and the ongoing rift between Fatah and Hamas make that clear. If, however, the protests continue and the casualty numbers increase, the world’s attention will turn to Israel. This is Hamas’s interest. Its leaders don’t want another war with Israel but they do want Israel diplomatically isolated. A violent end to the Land Day protests could help achieve that.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t need the Mavi Marmara to break off ties with Israel. That was just his convenient  excuse. Had the Turkish flotilla not set sail, he would have found something else.

The same applies here. The IDF had weeks to prepare for Friday’s border protests.

It bolstered the border with additional troops and set clear and strict rules of engagement. But then a video comes out like the one that shows a young Palestinian man being shot while running away from the border. That alone has the potential to turn the tide against Israel.

In principle, Israel is right – Hamas is trying to violate Israel’s sovereignty and force is, and will continue to be, needed to stop it. But, Israel also needs to be smart in how it employs force. There is no reason to give the world an excuse to take Hamas’s side. The Mavi Marmara is a reminder of how being right is not always being smart.

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