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Michael Wolff

Michael Wolff

Posted: June 2, 2010 09:53 AM

Is the Flotilla Attack a Game Changer?

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There are really not so many examples of nations firing upon ships with whom they are not at war, other than North Korea.

To take the most generous view, the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla was provoked by many different combustible factors. But even given a nasty -- and purposeful -- degree of intransigence on the part of the "activists," the outcome is extraordinary. It is the result of a kind and level of exceptionalism that is at the root of the Israeli stand-off with the region and the world: Because it believes itself to be uniquely imperiled, it does not have to abide by many of the elemental restraints and PR rules that even most roguish nations are forced to follow (eg, better to have held the ship at bay until it ran out of supplies than attack it).

Of course, the other reason for Israel's exceptionalism is that the US always stands by it.

That seems pretty much to be the Obama view of Israel -- and the source of his frustration with it. And, indeed, the Obama White House and, if you will, Clinton State Department, have taken a series of increasingly aggressive (or at least argumentative) stances toward Israel -- so far, seemingly, to no avail.

While it is possible the raid was a cock-up, as likely it is part of a get-even-tougher Israeli get-tougher policy. The Israeli view: If the noises we're hearing from the White House are going to mean we'll have to back down from our tough position, let's ratchet it up, so when we have to back down, we don't lose any ground. That's been Israel's long-term policy, one that -- with its settlements -- has proved preternaturally successful. (This is, also, the long-term Arab policy.)

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