I feel as if I am standing in the valley of the dry bones. Ezekiel’s prophecy, 2,500 years ago, was formed in the milieu of the Babylonian exile. The vision of the dead arising, in life, was intended to breathe hope back into the forlorn, dispersed people of Israel. Today, I too am forlorn. The flotilla fiasco has given rise to the ire of the world. Go to the BBC “Have Your Say” Website and read its contents.
Whether or not Israel is right, whether or not we are permitting 18,000 tons of aid to enter Gaza each week, whether or not international maritime law is on our side, whether or not the IHH has ties to terrorist organizations, all of this matters not. What matters is the picture of military commandos descending on supposed innocents and the consequent loss of life. The world does not care that we immediately evacuated all of the injured to hospitals, or that we released virtually all of the aid (some of it obsolete and worthless) and detainees (well-fed and cared for) within days.
Approximately 40 years ago, one picture from Vietnam showed a Vietcong official being brutally shot in the head on a street. That picture arguably turned the tide of American support for the war. Pictures (and, nowadays, YouTube videos) have great power.
I fear that the flotilla fiasco, a trap that Israel entered on the basis of poor intelligence, is just such a turning point. No amount of public relations or fact-finding will erase the visceral impression of an army attacking “unarmed” civilians and non-combatants.
So what is Israel to do? I see only two choices. These words will be anathema to many. (1) Israel must agree to negotiate with Hamas and accept it as a real political force in the region (and lift the blockade). Or (2), Israel must resolve to eradicate Hamas at any cost, including the invasion and re-occupation of Gaza.
Does this threaten regional war? You bet. But one thing is clear. Israel has been backed into a corner by the events of the past week. It cannot stay there. Playing a waiting game, while Iran develops nuclear weapons, is not an option.
Prime Minister Netanyahu must now decide which way to go – to talk, or to make war. The middle ground is disappearing beneath our feet and becoming a new valley of dry bones.