THE violence that marked the Israeli takeover of the international aid flotilla is set to have serious security and political ramifications for Israel.
“This is an event of historic proportions,” said Alon Liel, a former ambassador to Turkey and a former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry.
The summons of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara to the Turkish Foreign Ministry while the operation was under way was an early sign of the anger to come from the Turkish capital. Relations with other countries may also be hit, depending on the nationality of the dead and wounded on the boats.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak telephoned the Turkish defence and foreign ministers to explain Israel’s actions.
It seems clear Israel badly miscalculated the resistance the boarding parties were likely to face. In a briefing to naval commando officers a few days ago, the commander of the Israeli navy, Admiral Eli Marom, said their men should not respond to provocations from the pro-Palestinian demonstrators aboard the boats such as cursing and spitting.
But what the commandos encountered, according to an Israeli army spokesman, were protesters wielding knives, steel bars, acid and guns.
A military commentator said last night that if resistance had been anticipated, the commandos landing from helicopters would have cleared a space for themselves by first dropping teargas.
The organisers of the aid boats had declared there would be no violence as long as they were not attacked. “Our message is a message of peace and we won’t use any violent means,” they said.
“But we also don’t plan to welcome the occupation soldiers with flowers and rice.”
Israeli forces were deployed yesterday to deal with possible violent reactions from Israeli Arabs, a number of whose leaders, including a Knesset member, were aboard the aid ships. The army deployed units in the West Bank, and residents of Israeli towns on the perimeter of the Gaza Strip braced for rocket attacks.
International hostility to Israel over its policies to the Palestinians is expected to be exacerbated by the violent confrontation.
Hamas leaders in Gaza predicted the shock at the maritime clash would eventually force Israel to lift its blockade.