Amid all the massive media attention that followed Israel's raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza on Monday, the juxtaposition of two stories in many of the country's newspapers the next day was more than ironic. The headlines in The Philadelphia Inquirer provided as good an example as any: "Outcry, crisis after deadly raid by Israel" was followed by this, more ominous story: "Day by day, Iran is closer to a bomb."
There is no doubt that Israel's effort to abort the convoy of ships loaded with pro-Palestinian activists went painfully awry. Images of Israeli commandos parachuting into rioting mobs and the resulting deaths of at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were clearly not the intended outcome of Israel's determination to stop the flotilla of ships that were in flagrant violation of the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
It was a no-win situation for Israel. After numerous diplomatic attempts to halt the flotilla and 11th-hour warnings to the ships once at sea to follow proper security procedures by first unloading their wares in Ashdod, Israel had two choices: risk confrontation or gamble that repeated violations would lead to the further smuggling of arms that Hamas seeks in its ongoing war against Israel.
While there's been much grumbling among Israelis about the government's perceived lack of sufficient planning for such violent resistance — and for the public-relations fiasco that followed — Israeli officialdom appears united about the justification of the embargo itself.
"There is no opposition in Israel" to the blockade, Knesset member Tzipi Livni of Kadima, the former foreign minister who now heads the opposition and has been an outspoken critic of the Netanyahu government, told CNN. "The embargo on Gaza is a necessity in order to stop Hamas and its supporters."
The fallout has come fast and furious. Aside from the predictable — and hypocritical — international condemnation, a much-needed meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was set for Tuesday was postponed; relations with Turkey have deteriorated even further; and Egypt has temporarily lifted its own blockade of the Gaza Strip, opening up another route for weapons-smuggling.
Like many recent incidents, the battle for public opinion is raging in the blogosphere and on YouTube. The Israeli version of the video showing Israelis being attacked by the ship's passengers vies for top listing with the Al Jazeera version of events.
Lost in the hype is the underlying reason why Israel takes what happens in, and arrives at, Gaza so seriously. Not only is Hamas a major threat and impediment to any real hope for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, it also is a conduit for Iranian action against the Jewish state. So while the international outcry tops the news, Iran — the ultimate threat to the region — continues to advance toward its nuclear goal.