Home inContext Qadhafi’s Gamble, Israel’s Introspection

Qadhafi’s Gamble, Israel’s Introspection

Richard Smith

As details emerge of Israel’s inquiry into May’s flotilla crisis that led to the death of nine Turkish passengers, a Libyan ship is currently approaching Israeli waters in the latest attempt to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Al-Amal, chartered by a charity run by Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, the son of the Libyan dictator, set sail from Greece on Saturday. It is reportedly carrying 15 activists, 12 crew, and 2,000 tons of food and medicine. The Israeli military has contacted the ship, inviting them to dock in either the Egyptian port of El-Arish or the Israeli port of Ashdod, and has given it an ultimatum to change course by midnight. However, a strongly worded statement on the charity’s website confirms that “the Ship is bound for Gaza and not to any other destination…it is not true at all that the Ship is heading to El Arish port.”

The Al-Amal en route to Gaza

Meanwhile, the conclusions of an Israeli military investigation into the naval operation against the Mavi Marmara that caused an international outcry emerged yesterday. The commission, headed by Maj. Gen. (Res) Giora Eiland, concluded that “not all possible intelligence gathering methods were fully implemented,” and that “coordination between Navy Intelligence and the Israel Defense Intelligence was insufficient.” The report also criticized the operation for not having an alternative plan of action as well as for underestimating the level of violence used against the forces.

However, the investigation ultimately judged that the soldiers operated “properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness” and that the use of live fire was justified. The report confirms that a bullet removed from the abdomen of one soldier is not used by IDF troops, proving that passengers on the ship indeed had their own firearms.

Maj. Eiland stressed the importance of the investigation, both in terms of Israel’s commitment to transparency and accountability, and in light of continued maritime efforts to reach Gaza. Aleksei Angeolopoulos, the owner of the Moldovan flagged, Libyan ship currently heading for Gaza, stressed the humanitarian aim of the mission and affirmed that ‘there are no weapons or prohibited materials’ aboard. But Mr. Angeolopoulos is naïve to think his word will be sufficient for Israel to allow unverified goods into a region under the control of a terrorist movement dedicated to its destruction. There are precedents that justify Israel’s policies with regard to maritime traffic, and there’s reason to believe any other nation would behave similarly in such a situation.

If the Libyan ship is genuinely humanitarian in intent, then its organizers will accept the tense realities of the Middle East conflict and allow the goods to be checked by either Israel, Egypt, the United Nations or the Red Cross before it is distributed to the people of Gaza. But if, like the Mavi Marmara, the Al-Amal is nothing but a crude propaganda mission orchestrated to provoke a violent mid-sea clash, then one can only hope it doesn’t succeed.