Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Can We Please Stop Talking About The “Freedom Flotilla?”

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on June 7, 2010

If you rely on mainstream television and syndicated columnists for your daily news, I’m sure that you’re probably sick and tired of hearing about Israel’s botched assault on a humanitarian convoy that tried to doc in the Gaza Strip (the press has repeatedly invoked the phrase “freedom flotilla” to describe the convoy of ships).  I hate to put words in everyone’s mouths, but it seems that you can’t read a news article today without hearing another op-ed columnist give some mundane analysis on what went wrong and how the incident is going to affect the state of Israel in the eyes of the world.

Here’s the bottom line, and a point I’ve already made in a previous posting: we can all argue about whether Israel should have intercepted the boat or whether international law allowed the operation in the first place.  But all this does is set the clock back when the United States and its allies should be focusing all of their efforts on getting the Turkish-Israeli relationship back on track.

More important, dwelling on the past and continuing to concentrate on the flotilla incident diverts a tremendous amount of government attention that could be used on much bigger problems, like say preparing for a nuclear Iran (which is becoming more evident by the day) or containing a powerful Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I understand that everyone likes a little drama in their lives now and again.  It can excite and propel us out of the boring aura that usually dominates our lives.  And don’t think for a second that this is limited to suburbanites like myself; governments like some excitement too.  Who in their right mind would want to sit down and crunch budget numbers all day when something as invigorating as an “international incident” pops up?  And nothing spells “international incident” as much as a controversial and deadly Israeli raid on a pro-Palestinian humanitarian mission.

But there comes a point in time when even the drama can get a bit too dramatic.  Unfortunately, the Israeli attack on the flotilla is starting to fit rather nicely into that category.

The bad news is that this is not helping the United States in any way, shape, or form.  Calls for Washington to denounce Israel over its conduct during the “freedom flotilla” operation is only distracting President Obama from a long laundry list of national priorities that are much more important…like the thousands of barrels of crude oil that are ruining the Gulf of Mexico or the thousands of U.S. troops that are expected to land in Afghanistan in the next month.

I’m sure other bloggers or readers will disagree with my assessment.  Some may claim that the President should condemn Israel, for this would save America’s reputation in the Arab world and help the United States gain some leverage over Jerusalem in the future.  I, however, see it a bit differently.  Such a compliant will only keep the issue alive at a time when the White House is knee-deep in other problems.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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