This morning I awoke to the worst possible headlines and yet another depressing chapter in Israel’s history of PR disasters. My belief that Israel had the ‘perfect answer’ was wrong.

They messed up badly.

We don’t yet know how many died or will die, but  one thing is certain: Israel will be blamed and vilified and this will be another martyrdom to be added to litany of hate against Israel. All we know is that Israeli commandos intercepted and boarded the flotilla that was sailing from Turkey to break the maritime blockade and deliver aid to Gaza. On one of the boats, it appears, that an ‘activist’ grabbed a weapon from an Israeli commando and shot him in the stomach. Bearing in mind this is at night amid chaos it appears that other commandos opened fire and several were killed. It also appears that this was a planned attack and the activists who had previously claimed that they would not resort to violence did just that.

The Jerusalem Post got it right:

For the international media and its consumers, the reasons behind Israel’s decision do not make much of a difference, since what Israel is doing fits the way it is already widely perceived – as a violent aggressor abusing a weak and poor Palestinian people.

The article then goes on to state that the flotilla of aid was unnecessary because thousands of tons a week enter Gaza via the Keren Shalom crossing and in an attempt to improve its PR image the Israeli government invited journalists to witness this. What hasn’t been reported widely is that:

the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish organization that is behind the flotilla, described as a “radical Islamic organization” that was outlawed by Israel in 2008 for allegedly serving as a major component in Hamas’s global fund-raising machine

In other words, under the cover of an aid convey, the real intention was to provoke Israel to some precipitate action.

And as far as the hostile world is concerned, this is exactly what happened. On BBC News this morning Mark Regev, the Israel spokesperson, was asked if there were any illegal arms on board, to which he, of course, answered that he had no such intelligence.

And so the waters are immediately muddied: why did the Israelis have to stop the flotilla? If they had let it through there would have been no deaths. In other words Israel is the provocateur, not the IHH. The deaths are Israel’s fault and caused by the blockade, not by an activist who recklessly grabbed a weapon and actually used it.

As I have said in previous posts, this was a win/win for Hamas and a lose/lose for Israel. If the flotilla were allowed through, as the JP also points out and as Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister described here and in his press conference this morning, the floodgates would be open and Iran would succeed in delivering missiles to Gaza that would be used against Israeli towns and cities.

This is why there is a maritime blockade and why all ships which wish to deliver anything to Gaza have to pass through an Israeli port for inspection .

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has now published this account.

1. Numerous warning were given to head for Ashdod where the aid would be delivered after inspection

2. This was refused

3. The Israeli commandos boarded the ships and on one ship they were, apparently, fired on by weapons already on board (2 pistols)  which had been taken but one of which was then grabbed back.In addition the activists had knives and clubs. This is despite prior protestations that they would not use violence.

4. This seemed to be a planned ambush by a section of the activists. So it is clear.

The aid flotilla was a sham. Its intention was to provoke violence and it succeeded. If it was just and aid convoy it could have docked at Ashdod. The organisers are a Turkish NGO (IHH) which has connections with terrorist organisations including Hamas But none of this will matter. The forces of terror have had a clear victory. The Palestinian Authority has already declared 3 days of mourning and Hamas call it a ‘massacre’.

Could Israel have handled it better? I’m sorry to say the answer has to be ‘yes’.