The Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla immediately brought to mind Talleyrand's famous observation: It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake. Now the only way that Israel can move forward from this latest and tragic mistake is to understand its root causes.
The strategic rationale that made a naval commando assault on a civilian vessel seem legitimate is the same strategic rationale at the root of all of Israel's current difficulties: a narrowly defined perception of the country's security as the end goal, with a strong deterrence posture that, in the words of David Grossman, depends on the "default . . . use of massive and exaggerated force" as its preferred means.
When the blockade of the Gaza Strip began in the summer of 2007, after Hamas' violent takeover of the Palestinian coastal enclave, it was meant to achieve one of two objectives: to undermine Hamas' power and popularity among the 1.5 million inhabitants of the blighted strip, thereby leading to the group's eventual downfall; or force Hamas to backtrack on its rejectionist stance vis-à-vis Israel and the peace process. In other words, the blockade was a political instrument meant to bring about political goals.