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The fact that Israeli commandos were allowed to kill 10--and possibly as many as 20--pro-Palestinian activists aboard a small flotilla of boats, presumably bringing humanitarian supplies to Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, is symptomatic of how clueless the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is. These supplies were said to include building materials, electric-powered wheelchairs, and water purifiers.

Regardless of the actual facts and circumstances, this tragedy will create even more international sympathy for the Palestinians. From a public-relations viewpoint, it may very well prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back in the ever growing international antipathy for Israeli, especially regarding its policy toward the Palestinians and the West Bank.

Netanyahu seems oblivious to something called the cumulative effect. Never mind that the state of Israeli was created without consulting the Arab nations in the Middle East--which, not surprisingly, instantly triggered a regional war. Never mind that legitimate Palestinian residents were forced--and continue to be forced--from their homes and land by pro-Jewish Israeli policy. Never mind that Israel seized and continues to control the West Bank captured in the 1967 war. Never mind that Israel has unilaterally annexed old Jerusalem and its environs and has allowed the construction of many Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Never mind that the harsh blockade of the Gaza Strip has created a humanitarian disaster. Never mind the brazen announcement--as Vice-president Joseph Biden was landing in Israel to promote peace talks--that Israel would permit the construction of 1600 housing units in the West Bank section of Jerusalem.

Let's remember, however, that Israel has endured thousands of rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza. And let's not forget that Israel simply wanted to inspect the small "peace" flotilla to confirm its cargo did not include any rockets or weapons and, if so, would have permitted it to reach Gaza. And let's assume that the Israeli commandos--who boarded these relatively small vessels in international waters--did come under attack. Was this kind of lethal response good for Israeli's self interest? How could Netanyahu be so obtuse? Why didn't the Israeli government realize that any action by its commandos that resulted in civilian deaths--even if somewhat justified--would have a horrific effect on its already badly seared public image?

A much wiser and more calibrated response would have been for the Israeli commandos to show restraint. They should have retreated--as the victims, not the perpetrators--of violence. The boats could then have still been harmlessly stopped, for example, by disabling their rudders.

Even the United States, Israeli's main ally, is belatedly beginning to acknowledge the obvious--that 9/11 and all the other terrorist attacks are the poisonous fruit of American foreign policy. Is the cost of fighting terrorism--including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the death and injury of tens of thousands of young American soldiers--worth our unswerving support of Israel? To rephrase, is it in the national interest of the United States to continue such unswerving support? Does Israeli's main lobbying group, AIPAC, care more about Israeli's survival than our own?

Will this disproportionate Israeli response be the final straw in awakening America to the fact that it is time to reconsider its foreign policy in the Middle East?

Gary S. Chafetz is the author of
The Perfect Villain: John McCain and the Demonization of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

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