To attack or arrest

by Yaniv Reich on November 6, 2009

Yesterday Israel intercepted and raided a ship, which it says was loaded with thousands of tons of rockets and other materiel in Iran and which was headed for Hezbollah, Israel’s nemesis in Lebanon. After seizing the weapons, Israel put it on display for the world to see and Netanyahu suddenly came around to the cause of international law, accusing Hezbollah of war crimes (for what the rockets would have been used had they been fired at Israeli civilian areas).

This event would appear to be a coup for Israel in the middle of a rough week. Israel’s bad week is related to the facts that the Goldstone report was just referred to the UN Security Council and Israel’s version of the peace process was damaged by the announced resignation of the ineffectual and accommodating Abbas. But this is great publicity from the Israeli perspective. They get to show the world pictures like the following and talk about their right to defend themselves:

Israel seizes arms cache it says destined for Hezbollah.

Israel seizes arms cache it says destined for Hezbollah.

Then, today, I saw a report that Israel had wanted to attack the ship militarily but this plan was vetoed by the US. Why in the world would Israel want to attack instead of arrest and seize the ship? In stark contrast to the good press this gives Israel, an attack on a ship would have been a political nightmare for Israel at a very sensitive moment.

Is this a case of military commanders getting a bit overly excited? Haaretz also reports that the action was not approved by the cabinet, which lends credibility to the idea of overzealous commanders.

This example serves as a small lesson in the follies of militarism.

(Photo credit: BBC)

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