Ex-Netanyahu Aide Defends Israel Attack on Gaza Ship

Friday, 04 Jun 2010 08:22 PM

By Dan Weil

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Israel acted properly in its attack against activists on an aid ship headed for Gaza, says George Birnbaum, former chief of staff for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This was a flotilla, part of which was sponsored by a well-known global terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida, trying to run” a legal blockade that had been established in cooperation with Egypt,” Birnbaum, now an international political consultant, told Newsmax.TV.

Knowing that terrorist organizations sponsored the ships, Israel had reason to assume the boats might be smuggling arms, he says.

“Israel had a right to intercept these boats and try to understand what was on them.”

Story continues below video.

If Israeli security was given a right to inspect the cargo and found only humanitarian aid, it would have allowed the vessel to continue to Gaza.

“They refused, so Israel did what it had to do to protect its citizens,” Birnbaum said.

He notes that Israeli commandos boarded five of the six ships in the flotilla without incident. The sixth had hired mercenaries aboard, he says.

Israelis who initially came on the boat were armed only with paintball guns. But they were brutally attacked once on board. “Others came in self-defense and did what they had to do,” Birnbaum said.

Videos from the conflict prove Israelis did the right thing, he said. And Netanyahu was correct in pointing out afterward the constant hypocrisy of a world that says Israel has a right to defend itself, but then criticizes the nation when it does so.

As for the United States, Birnbaum compliments Vice President Joe Biden for acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself.

The White House is in a tough spot, Birnbaum says. “If they do anything that seems to the Israeli government to be placating the Arab world, it’s a signal to Israel that it can’t trust the Americans vis a vis more important issues like the nuclear arming of Iran.”

That in turn may force Israel to take quicker unilateral action on these issues than it would like.

United Nations criticism of Israel has been tame and will probably not amount to much, Birnbaum says. He agrees with the Obama administration’s call for an independent investigation of the incident led by Israel with U.S. observers.

But President Barack Obama’s policy toward the Mideast has been flawed from the beginning, Birnbaum said. “The way you negotiate in the Mideast is from a position of strength.”

Obama’s speech in Cairo last June, apologizing to the Arab world for U.S. policy in recent years, violated that dictum, Birnbaum said.

“Apologizing in Mideast culture is seen as a sign of weakness,” he said. “When other sides see signs of weakness, they’re ready to take advantage of that.”

That’s exactly what’s happening in Iran, Syria and Lebanon now. “They are playing the game of placate and delay while continuing to pursue whatever they want to do,” he said.

“Unless the U.S. starts negotiating from a position of strength, there’s no way they can be successful in bringing peace to the Mideast.”

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