At other points in his life, this past month might have found Ami Ayalon at the center of attention. If the international flotilla to Gaza had come while he was in command of the elite naval commando force Flotilla 13, or later when he commanded the navy, or after that, when he helped lead the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) or even later when he served as a government minister, he might have been at the center of the decision-making process.Or would it? Given how horrific the overseas track record the MSM has, I'm not sure that would be the case.
But it didn’t, and instead, Ayalon found himself in late May in the unlikely – and unaccustomed – position of observing events from the side. After his departure from political life, Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s one-time rival has watched the unfolding of the past few weeks’ events with more than a little concern, stemming from years of experience on both tactical and strategic levels.
The events of May 31, when naval commandos stormed the flotilla’s ships, were neither unexpected nor unavoidable, Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post.
“I was not surprised when I heard the initial reports, because I have participated in an uncountable number of operations in which you know two things: First, there is no military operation that goes exactly as planned, and second, when you send combat soldiers to arrest civilians, and you tell them that is their goal, you must assume that civilians will be killed. If you put those two factors together, it was almost predictable that those would be the results.”
Two days before the navy confronted the flotilla, Ayalon recalled, an interviewer found him participating in a conference at Tel Aviv University, and asked him what he thought should be done to stop the flotilla. “I asked the interviewer why we needed to stop it, and he was horrified,” Ayalon recalled. “We must differentiate between the need to stop entry of heavy weaponry into Gaza, which is a clear interest that nobody questions, and between a situation in which we stand looking at six boats about to come, on board which intelligence knows there is no heavy weaponry – I’m not talking about a few handguns. Instead, this is a struggle for public relations, and so I think from the beginning that the system should work completely differently, involving the international community and only blocking weapons.
“So I say to him, ‘Why do you think that the only option is to stop it? Let’s imagine a situation in which we take a few civilian boats, go out, meet them at sea, during daylight and with huge pictures of Gilad Schalit on our ships and we sail together to Gaza. They bring humanitarian supplies and we demand that Ismail Haniyeh allows us to see Gilad Schalit.’”
Such a move, Ayalon said, would have redirected some of the international attention away from Hamas propaganda and on to the captured IDF soldier.
And there's something very odd about how Ayalon frames the whole conversation with another interviewer, who could be a conservative. The reason we have to stop these flotillas is because we have no way of knowing whether they're smuggling weapons or not, and no way to be sure if it's not a ruse. Seems to me as though Ayalon was just inciting against the other journalist for not taking a stand he agrees with.
Plus, Ayalon has long been a leftist, more or less, and his policies not all that different from Ehud Barak's. So I doubt he'd do much better if he were in charge.