Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Michael Goodwwin in the New York Post
Actually, it's the other way around.
The president's appeasement policies helped to create the incident. Israel took the bait, but the trap was set in Washington.
Weakness always begets aggression, and, like clockwork, Obama's repeated signals that he is weakening America's commitment to Israel are emboldening the Jewish state's enemies. From Syria to Iran to Lebanon, from Hezbollah to Hamas and the PLO, the wolves smell blood and are trying to gauge whether they can get close enough for the kill.
And whether the United States will stop them. That they even dare hope we won't reflects the danger of Obama's demented decisions.
The huge flotilla is the latest example of the open-season mania, with the result that Israel is under international siege -- for defending itself. And, not incidentally, for defending an embargo on Gaza that Washington supports.
Obama says he wants the facts of the incident, but let's hope he also wants the truth, even if it is inconvenient to his worldview.
The first fact is that the flotilla was not really a humanitarian effort. The compassion claim was a fig leaf for the political aim of busting the 3-year-old maritime blockade, as organizers admitted last week.
They knew they would not be allowed to dock in Gaza, but still rejected Israel's offer to unload the goods in Israeli ports and, after inspection, truck them overland. At least a few of the passengers were armed.
"We're trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and tell the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians," Greta Berlin, the head of an organization called Free Gaza Movement, said in typical exaggeration to a British newspaper.
Her group's boats were turned away before, but they vowed not to be stopped this time. "The previous boats were making a statement -- these boats will be making a real impact," Berlin said four days before the launch.
Israel, of course, is not exempt from criticism for what was clearly a bungled effort. Incredibly, given what they knew beforehand about the intent of the activists, its military leaders sent in only a handful of lightly armed commandos who were easy targets as they slid down ropes from helicopters.
Yet it's also fair to ask where Obama was while the problem was building. Even if he was too busy with the oil disaster in the Gulf, where was the secretary of state? It was long clear the flotilla had the potential to cause a regional ruckus, but Washington watched it unfold like a spectator.
That's strange in and of itself, because the US and Europe supported the blockade to force Hamas from power in Gaza, or force it to recognize Israel and renounce violence. They might have stopped the dangerous flotilla simply by making it clear they would support Israel's right to interdict it.
The most troubling fact of shifting allegiances is Turkey's role as sponsor of the convoy. Not so long ago, Israel and Turkey were allies, even conducting joint military exercises.
But Turkey, a member of NATO, has been moving away from Israel and the West and toward the Islamic bloc. Witness its recent, destructive foray into the Iranian nuclear game.
Instead of siding with Europe and America, ostensibly its allies, Turkey joined with Brazil to give cover for the Iranian program. Its prime minister even blasted the US, saying, "While they still have nuclear weapons, where do they get the credibility to ask other countries not to have them?"
These are the facts, and the truth. For the obvious stakes, they shouldn't present a dilemma for Obama.
He should do what any American president would -- protect our friend and ally from the predators who want to devour it.