July 19, 2011
Though a recent interception and boarding of a French-flagged yacht bound for Gaza occured without incident, military analyst Nate Hughes says Israel’s relationships with regimes around the region remain troubled by the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and the potential for a resurgence of pro-Palestinian sentiment.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
A single ship associated with the so-called second flotilla bound for Gaza was intercepted and boarded by the Israeli navy, but what’s important about this is not this minor incident — the Israelis regularly intercept ships attempting to breach the blockade into Gaza — but that so far, the incident has failed to achieve any sort of notoriety that was found in 2010 with the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
In this most recent incident, the Israeli navy first intercepted and then boarded a French-flagged yacht attempting to breach the blockade and make a run to Gaza. This is the only ship of the larger flotilla that has been able to leave Greek port. The rest are bound up there for varied administrative and bureaucratic reasons, deliberately so, but have been unable to leave port.
Tactically, this is a much more manageable problem. The problem for the Israelis in 2010, with the big flotilla incident, was that the Mavi Marmara was a large ferry, overloaded and carrying over 1,000 people and there were a number of ships in company with it that the Israelis had to manage, essentially all at once. In that incidence, the Israelis attempted to board and scuffles with the passengers led to a number of injuries among the Israeli commandos and ultimately resulted in nine dead Turkish citizens. That incident sparked an enormous political backlash against the Israelis. The Israelis learned a great deal from that raid and were certainly prepared at this point to deal with whatever the flotilla activists attempted to push through the blockade, but they have obviously made great strides in preventing the flotilla from forming in the first place.
But the important thing about the current time is the context of the so-called Arab Spring. Where as in 2010 the Israelis were in a very strong position. The Arab Spring has changed the context a little bit. Israel has sort of gotten to the point where it was taking for granted its relationship with, for example, the Mubarak regime in Egypt. While that regime is still in place, minus Mubarak, the problem is that Cairo is walking a much finer line with its own people than it has been in the past and it is very focused on containing the unrest. What this means is that if the unrest in Egypt and in the wider region were to take on, not just the current Democratic and disaffected nature, but took on a more pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli line, that would put a number of regimes in the region upon which Israel relies for, if not overt, at least covert and clandestine coordination assistance, in a much more difficult place and could make Israel’s immediate neighborhood a lot more difficult to manage.
Read more: Dispatch: Israel Intercepts Ship Bound for Gaza | STRATFOR