June 5 and the flotilla

June 5 and the next Gaza flotilla is almost upon us. Defense leaders cannot say they weren't warned and must put their heads together to avoid past fiascoes like those witnessed on May 15 and in the previous flotilla incident.

flotilla 311 (photo credit: Creative Commons)
flotilla 311
(photo credit: Creative Commons)
While the media is still busy tearing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday speech to pieces (as expected, no matter what he said), June 5th and the next Gaza flotilla is fast approaching.
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In the past I was sure that with the IDF’s power, the combined resourcefulness of the defense minister and the army’s chief of staff, and of course the creativity of the Jewish brain, the right solution would be found to combat enemy actions. Today I am not so sure, so that while other nameless newspapers are eulogizing the peace process, I am far more troubled by this.
The fiasco of the Second Lebanon War was attributed to a defense minister who simply didn’t understand matters of defense, and a chief of staff who remained high in the air, not grasping the realities on the ground.
But since then, we’ve had a defense minister who actually does understand defense, as well as two chiefs of staff lauded by politicians, media and the public.
In my humble opinion, Operation Cast Lead was not a exactly a success. Hamas’ military power was not destroyed; the IDF didn’t even come close to its centers and bases; Gilad Schalit is still imprisoned - and neither did we capture any important political leaders that could have been ransomed for his exchange; Hamas’ regime was not overturned, and to top it all off, the kassams, grads and mortar shells are being fired again.
So in what way was Cast Lead - an operation that was stopped at the half-way mark - considered successful? “We lost only 10 soldiers,” some answered.  But if the goal of the operation had been to achieve a low number of casualties we’d have been better off staying home.
Then came the unfortunate Mavi Marmara flotilla episode. Any child could have realized that under no circumstances should we try to establish contact between the soldiers and those on board the ships; there are many other means to stop a ship at sea. But our excellent military and defense leaders thought differently - or didn’t think at all - and the operation ended in catastrophe. The papers were full of accusations and counter-accusations; the chief of staff was busy; the defense minister was elsewhere; the Mossad didn’t pass the information to AMAN (military intelligence); our brave commandos were easy prey for the fanatical Islamists aboard the Marmara…
Yet how is it that no one thought of all this before it was too late?
Then on May 15 of this year a token force of soldiers tried - and failed - to prevent Palestinians multitudes, organized by Facebook (accessible to the IDF in addition to most of the world’s teenagers), from incursion. The soldiers were finally forced to use live bullets and people died.
How is it that nobody knew, guessed, supposed or even checked online that this could happen? How is that we had so much time to prepare for May 15 and yet none of the smarter members of our defense or the host of security experts we see on TV seemed to have a clue?
Of course following the events that day on the Lebanese and Syrian borders, those in our defense establishment declared that there was nothing to investigate, there had been no problems or mistakes, the army had reacted very well, Israel has nothing to fear, and next time of course we shall be ready.
Ready? What, like we were the last time? What will happen if the Palestinians, heeding Tom Friedman’s stupid idea in The New York Times, will start marching, in the thousands, into Israeli territory week after week? What if the next flotilla is better equipped and will use more ruses and deceptions than the first one? What if Egypt’s small-minded army allow the Palestinians to smuggle more and more weapons into Gaza? These are only a few sample scenarios that could very realistically occur.
Let’s not forget of course, Gilad Schalit, in captivity for five years and yet we’re not closer to finding and rescuing him. Is the Jewish brain really at work in the towers of Tel Aviv’s Defense HQ?
In fact, in the last five years, the only decent decision in the defense field was the one taken by its incompetent minister, Amir Peretz, who despite not understanding much in matters of defense, was still smart or stubborn enough to impose his will and have the “Iron Dome” erected.
June 5th is very close. We must warn our defense leaders that the fiasco of May 15th cannot be repeated in any form. We must insist that blocking the next flotilla with soldiers descending from the sky right into the arms of a potentially harmful enemy is simply not an option.
The writer is a former Labor Party MK and the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres.