Saturday, July 17, 2010

Israel Wins, Hamas and Libya Lose in Latest Blockade Stunt


by  Leo Rennert


After days of bluster by Libya that its aid ship was going to challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza, the Libyan-rented, Greek-owned, Maldovan-flagged vessel turned tail and, following IDF orders, docked instead at the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

Israel obviously emerges as the big winner from this episode -- the first time a Gaza-bound ship turned around without the Israeli Navy even having to board it or escort it to an Israeli port.


But there also are some notable losers as well and it bears singling them out:


LOSER NO. 1--The Hamas regime in Gaza.  Even as the Amalthea headed toward 'El-Arish, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanyeh pleaded for it to remain on course toward GazaHamas even arranged a seaside welcoming ceremony.  A well-merited come-uppance for Hamas.


LOSER NO. 2--Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi and his son, who under the guise of a Libyan charity, launched this ill-fated challenge to Israel's blockade.  Qaddafi is bound to lose face with fellow Arab leaders because at Arab summits he usually taunts them for leaving the Palestinians in the lurch -- accusing them of talking the talk, but not walking the walk.  After the worldwide criticism of Israel for its botched raid on a Turkish flotilla on May 31 which ended with nine Turkish activists dead after they attacked Israeli boarding commandos, the Quaddafis evidently saw a chance to strike next and to prove to the rest of the Arab world that they weren't going to be cowed by IsraelBut when the chips were down, the Libyan leadership blinked. Qadaffi, Sr., according to reports from Tripoli, even gave orders to prevent his son from taking a private plane and heading for Gaza.  Both Qaddafis eventually stepped back from the brink.


LOSER No. 3--Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who must have thought that the publicity he reaped from his provocative misadventure in failing to break the Gaza blockade would prompt a follow-up wave of ships heading for Gaza.  Iran threatened to send its own ships and have its Navy escort them into Gaza.  It was all talk.  Then, there were anti-Israel elements in Lebanon who were going to have an all-women crew and passengers aboard a blockade-running vessel.  It also didn't happen.


For its part, Israel this time didn't wait for a confrontation on the high seas to explain its right to blockade Hamas-run Gaza.  Instead, it launched a major pre-emptive diplomatic strike, enlisting the European Union and the Obama administration in a concerted effort to apply as much pressure as possible on Libya and the Greek owners of the Amalthea to desist. 


Italy, which has some influence in Libya, was enlisted to help Qaddafi realize that this was a no-win endeavor on his part.  Tony Blair, the international Middle East envoy, stepped in and repeatedly called on the ship not to run the blockade. 


With Israel expanding the scope of goods supplied to Gaza through land crossings, Prime Minister Netanyahu made headway with his message that there was absolutely no need for any ships to run the blockade with more provisions than Gaza needed or could absorb.  Israel, in its public diplomacy blitz also reminded the world about Libya's lengthy record of supporting terrorism, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which claimed 270 lives.


Netanyahu also managed to enlist Egypt, which agreed to let the vessel dock in its port instead.   As the Amalthea arrived in El-Arish, Egyptian officials poured more salt in Hamas's wound by announcing that the vessel's aid cargo would reach Gaza by land -- after first being inspected by Israel


Thus, when the Amalthea laid anchor in El-Airish, it was Hamas that ended up more isolated than ever, while Israel -- far from isolated on the international scene as most mainstream media depict it -- successfully aligned the "international community" on its side.



Leo Rennert

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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