Bibi Should Have Gone to Washington
It’s indicative of Israel’s PR acumen—or lack thereof—that when a crisis strikes, the reflex of the leadership is to head for the bunker. The Flotilla fiasco will go down as one of Israel’s biggest PR disasters. This was no Israeli commando raid in response to years of terrorist attacks or rockets raining on civilians. This was a raid to protect a blockade that has very little international support, and against a boat that was dressed up as a humanitarian mission. Yes, of course, it was an ambush. The “protestors” were more like terrorist thugs than they were rowdy protestors looking for a photo op.
Unfortunately and tragically, however, in the mayhem that followed the raid, Israeli commandoes killed at least 10 of these violent protestors. Now ask yourself: If the world comes down so hard on Israel when it defends itself against years of rocket attacks from genocidal terrorists, how will they react to these killings against a “humanitarian mission” that has worldwide support?
That’s why Prime Minister Netanyahu should have kept his appointment tomorrow with President Obama, instead of returning to Israel to “deal with the crisis.” Didn’t anyone tell him that the immediate crisis he has to deal with right now is outside of Israel?
The condemnations from around the world are coming at a furious pace, and it will get a lot worse in the coming days. The Flotilla Fiasco will make Goldstone look like a picnic.
The meeting with Obama was a perfect opportunity for Bibi to try to stem the tide of condemnations by providing some much-needed context.
One thing is clear: If you believe you have a case to make to influence the court of public opinion, there is no better place to do it than at the White House with the U.S. president by your side.
With the cameras of the world on him, Bibi could have said something like:
“We deeply regret the tragic deaths and injuries that occurred yesterday on the Gaza seas. Our condolences go out to all the families that were touched by this tragedy. We already have some evidence that this was a deliberate provocation by a group with terrorist connections. But I’m here to say that upon my return to Israel, I will immediately convene an independent commission of inquiry to gather all the facts and investigate how this tragedy happened so that we can prevent its re-occurrence.
“I’m also here to say that Israel does not want this blockade. It is a last resort. Our deepest wish is to live in peace with our neighbors. This blockade was forced on us by neighbors whose deepest wish is not to live in peace with us, but to destroy us. The goal of the blockade is not to hurt Palestinian civilians but to prevent the transfer of material and military equipment that is aimed solely at killing innocent Israeli civilians. We have allowed humanitarian aid to flow to Gaza during the blockade and will continue to do so.
“I ask the Palestinian leaders of Gaza today: Give us a statement of peace, give us some evidence that you are ready to live in peace as good neighbors, that you are ready to engage with us in good faith, and I will end the blockade immediately.”