Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Correction: Foreign Ministry Played Key Role In Flotilla II

This morning, the Israeli Shayetet 13 elite commando unit boarded the Dignite - al-Karama ship, the last remaining vessel in the Gaza flotilla. The ship had 10 passengers aboard, and there were no casualties. The IDF was prepared this time, incurring no casualties of its own, and providing what can only be referred to as epic hasbara.

Yet while this blog has historically given the IDF the bulk of the credit for smart tactics, to say that the Foreign Ministry played no part in the diplomatic hiccup of Flotilla II would be inaccurate. There can be no question that the Foreign Ministry successfully used its leverage in Greece and elsewhere to create an end state which was wholly in Israel's favor. Offering to deliver the humanitarian aid, running practice drills showing the IDF acting in accordance with international law, and keeping the official Israeli narrative focused elsewhere were also key elements to the success of today's interception. That the saboteurs of two of the flotilla ships were untraceable helped Israel as well. However, involved governments were willing to look the other way (officially) so as to preserve their relations with Israel in the first place.

Given this success, the Foreign Ministry should apply the best practices of its response to Flotilla II elsewhere. Diplomacy may be soft, less decisive, and less exciting than other approaches. However, when done effectively, it is simply the most efficient way of advancing Israel's security and political interests. A Foreign Ministry which uses similar tactics to kill a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN this September likely will see a certain amount of success.

So does this mean Israel's isolationist and confident foreign policy has not harmed it's diplomatic posture? If the flotilla was stopped successfully, doesn't that delegitimize claims that Israel is suffering diplomatically in the international arena?

The key is here is that Israel's partners and allies are motivated by stability in the region. Since stopping the flotilla preserves stability, they supported it. However, issues like settlements, which exacerbate instability, will continue to be opposed. While the Israeli diplomatic corps deserves full credit for conveying the instability which would have resulted from a flotilla interception, the argument they used to do it does not have universal salience. Moving forward, the Foreign Ministry will need more than snarky videos to defend other Israeli policies which exacerbate instability in the region.

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