Last year, I was critical of Israeli tactics which resulted in a melee aboard one of the ships of the Gaza flotilla–a battle at sea that left nine “activists” dead and gave Israel another (undeserved) black eye in the international arena. It appeared, in retrospect, Israel had fallen into a trap laid by Turkish jihadists. This time, alerted in advance to the threat, Israel acted more stealthily–and smarter.
Two of the ships that were supposed to bust the Gaza blockade this time around developed mysterious propeller problems which are widely thought to be the work of Israeli agents. Other vessels are being kept in port by Greek authorities after a combination of intensive, behind-the-scenes diplomacy by Israeli officials and the threat of legal action by a private Israeli organization. (A summary of where the ill-starred blockade-runners stand may be found in this Washington Post article.) Israel also blundered a bit by threatening sanctions against any journalists who accompanied the flotilla–a threat that was soon retracted. But that was a rare misstep in what so far, at least, has been a smart, focused, and, above all, subtle response to head off a threat before it materializes.
Such action may not always be possible but, where it is, it is far preferable to an armed confrontation on the high seas. I certainly don’t dispute Israel’s right to use force to stop attempts to break its embargo on Hamas; but it’s better when it doesn’t have to.