After Israeli commandos killed nine Turks on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara on May 31, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now willing to testify in an inquiry that the country intends to hold into its lethal raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
The whole operation seems to have been a miscalculated and mishandled one. Hamas may easily use the situation to gain sympathy among Palestinians.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Zeev Maoz, an expert on Israeli affairs, discusses Israel’s deadly raid and its repercussions.
Zeev Maoz is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis, as well as Distinguished Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya, Israel.
Kamna: How has Israel`s image suffered due to its lethal operation?
Maoz: In two ways. First, diplomatically, Israel’s isolation in the West has increased and its image in world public opinion has been badly damaged. This is on top of the rapid deterioration in its relations with former allies such as Turkey.
Second, militarily, the raid further highlights continued operational problems and the limitations of the use of force in such operations. It accentuates the fact that even the elite units of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) are vulnerable and show serious operational defects. In addition, this raid shows several huge gaps in planning and carrying out missions by special forces.
Kamna: Do you think governments across the world will take any substantial action against Israel?
Maoz: I doubt that there will be serious consequences in terms of government-to-government relations, with the obvious exception of the rift in Israel-Turkey relations. Even Egypt has continued to maintain its part in the siege of the Gaza Strip, although it allowed limited crossover after the raid.
Kamna: The whole incident has strained ties between Israel and Turkey. Will there be any geopolitical implications of this?
Maoz: I am not sure what do you mean by geopolitical implications. Turkey’s current government has developed a foreign policy that is more oriented towards the Middle East than towards Europe. This is a result of the continued rejection of Turkey by the EU. Relations with Israel were on a downward slope since the coming to power of the Netanyahu- Lieberman government, since Israel has turned a cold shoulder to Turkey’s efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria. Since Turkish public opinion has turned against Israel over the last few years, the shift in the government’s position on Israel is backed by the public and has made Erdogen quite popular at home. At the same time, growing anti-Turkish sentiments in Israel, fuelled by the hostile rhetoric of the foreign policy Liberman suggest that—unless cooler voices prevail—we are headed towards a break-up of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The military ties between these countries may be maintained but they will become more low key and covert.
Kamna: How significant is Gaza for Israel?
Maoz: The significance of Gaza is not territorial or security-related. Currently, it is political. Israel’s siege of Gaza (which is supported by the Egyptians, by the way) is aimed at bringing down Hamas rule in Gaza. It is a continued policy of collective punishment, which has never worked in the past and is unlikely to work in the future.
Kamna: Do you think Hamas will get any sort of advantage from this incident?
Maoz: Yes, I think Hamas will become increasingly legitimate in the world’s public opinion. There are already voices in the US government urging the Obama administration to talk to Hamas. It will also strengthen its standing among the Palestinians, largely at the expense of Fatah.