There is a lot that we don't know about the raid of an activist ship by IDF Naval forces. But there are a few things that I'm starting to get my own head around.
First, it was yet another deeply stupid move by Netanyahu's government. Dropping commandos one-by-one from a helicopter onto the deck of a (large) ship in international waters? Did no one foresee the possibility that this plan, such as it was, might end badly? And what was it going to achieve? What was the best case scenario that would justify the international outrage from a successful raid? These aren't rhetorical questions. They should be asked and answers demanded -- by the US, among others. Because Israel is being poorly led at the moment, and that can't help the US achieve its foreign policy goals.
Second, let's not lose our heads over what these protesters were doing. There's a lot that can be said about the Gaza blockade, and a case can be made against it. But, with due respect to Eric and Brian Ulrich, the folks on the boarded vessel were not "peaceful" activists. They were activists spoiling for a fight. The video shows the very first soldier boarding the Mavi Marnara being attacked and thrown off the deck, almost immediately.
I understand that explanations can be offered for this behavior. But don't get played. As soon as the first commando was assaulted, someone was going to get shot. And the folks who assaulted that commando knew that. You don't throw a man thirty feet off a deck (aka, try to kill him) and expect his compatriots not to not to react. The IDF's overreaction might not have been expected, but violence surely was. What's surprising is not that the shooting began, but that it didn't begin immediately.
Which brings me to my third point, which is really just the first point restated. I am trying to stay open to new facts and possibilities, but I am having trouble imagining facts that exonerate the folks who greenlighted this raid. This whole mess seems predictable in the extreme, including the fall out, and a bunch of people are now dead for no good reason. Possibly, a war crime has been committed. Unless there's some stunning new development, the blame for this debacle/tragedy seems to lie squarely on an overwhelmed and incompetent Israeli leadership.
I don't have my co-bloggers' aversion to a more hawkish stance by Israel on some of these questions. You can't be a hawk and a total screw up, however, such that your every move backfires. Sometimes I think that Netanyahu would be better defender of Israel if he just stopped trying.