311_Mavi Marmara side.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The docking in El-Arish last Wednesday of the Libyan Gaza-bound “aid ship” marks
– from the Israeli perspective – a desirable ending to another maritime
provocation. In our circumstances, nothing is ever guaranteed outright, but this
may signal a new approach following the Mavi Marmara fiasco. This latest
installment in what doubtlessly is an ongoing saga may just possibly indicate
that operative conclusions have been drawn from what went wrong last
It’s clear such stunts will continue. Every last drop of
propaganda-profit will be squeezed out before these ships are abandoned in favor
of new ploys.
The handling of the Amalthea
provides an object lesson in
just how to crisis-manage such challenges.
The approach may not always
work. Much, crucially, depends on the degree of aggression and malice onboard.
But some of the practicable rules followed in this case will be applicable
Most prominent in the new approach is the resort to
diplomatic channels. The advantage is twofold: world opinion is put on notice
that Israel wishes to avoid confrontation without sacrificing its vital security
interests. Simultaneously, indirect contacts are utilized to avoid
confrontation, and lead to the sort of compromise that redirected the Amalthea
In a sense, Israel came out having its cake and eating it too.
It deterred the Libyans without resorting to violence – and without the
attendant bad press.
It’s obvious that, this time, the legal
ramifications of blocking foreign intruders were taken into account. Hence the
decision not to engage the Amalthea
in international waters. The Libyans were
shadowed and warned throughout, but they weren’t to be physically thwarted
unless and until they were out of international waters.
THE ROLE of the
Cuban captain also needs to be focused upon. The Mavi Marmara
incident had shown
ship owners that they have much to lose when collaborating in the Hamas-inspired
campaign to embarrass Israel and create a false façade of starvation in Gaza.
The Mavi Marmara
isn’t back in the business of making money for its owners. It’s
still moored at Ashdod Port and there is no telling when it will be
This certainly is another potent weapon in Israel’s hands and
one which should not be relinquished too quickly.
The combination of
military deterrent and diplomatic action had already proved itself in the cases
of the Iranian and Lebanese/Iranian-proxy boats.
intelligence services continue to keep watch for the possibility of such
sailings, it wasn’t for nothing that they “rescheduled”/called off their
Likewise, the outcome of the Libyan episode is nothing
to downplay. Potentially the Libyans are no less dangerous. Libyan strongman
Muammar Gaddafi now serves as Arab League chairman and apparently feels obliged
to prove that Arabs can outdo anything the Turks boast about. He cannot let
Ankara’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan become the new Muslim super-hero.
for its part, has every incentive to escalate the “nautical intifada.” This is a
surefire popularity booster in the Palestinian context as well as in the
domestic contexts of assorted Arab states. The approaching month of Ramadan is
only likely to raise flotilla-fervor and its demagogic value.
to crush the Israeli blockade to facilitate large-scale rearmament. This
only an anti-Israeli gambit but one calculated to give Hamas the upper
against Fatah. That is why Hamas refused to accept the Egyptian-brokered
with the PA recently. This is all about creating a viable Iranian
Gaza. And that is something Egypt also wishes to foil.
The way in which
the Libyan maneuver was resolved serves all anti-Hamas/Iran forces in
region. With that in mind, the El Arish solution sets an important
Israel, one it can cite as a workable solution and one which
Israel’s disinclination for belligerence.
The very establishment of this
precedent will hopefully reduce at least some of the pressure on Israel –
take some of the wind out of the sails of Hamas and its well-wishers