To my mind, the most astonishing thing about the flotilla disaster is that the IDF sent its elite naval commandos into a highly charged potential combat situation that was being closely scrutinized by the world media — armed with paintball guns.
The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.
Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.
But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.
Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position. Exit question: How many new flotillas to Gaza are being planned right now in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East?