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Despite the release of videos from both sides in the conflict between protesters and Israeli soldiers aboard a freighter off the Gaza coast, the precise nature of the incident that left nine civilians dead and several soldiers wounded is unclear. Were the civilians on the deck of the ship as aggressive as the Israelis claim? Did the soldiers overreact? Should the freighter have stopped when it was warned that it was violating a legally imposed blockade? Was sending troops to rappel onto the ship from helicopters an inherently dangerous response? Was it right for Israel to stop ships that could be carrying weapons to terrorists who would launch attacks on its citizens? Was it wrong for Israel to prevent humanitarian supplies from going directly to those in need on the pretense that some of them could, theoretically, support Hamas violence?

Ultimately, it will probably be impossible to arrive at answers to those questions that will be universally accepted. And in the immediate term, trying to answer them may not matter. The more important problem is that, regardless of the motives of those involved, the results of the incident have left Israel deeply isolated, and that is a much graver threat to its long-term security than whatever those ships were carrying. The ships came from Turkey, Israel's closest friend in the region. That relationship is now in tatters, and more humanitarian vessels are now on the way. Egypt, who joined Israel in calling for the blockade of Gaza, may now feel pressure to drop its support for the sanctions. Already it has opened its border with Gaza and is accepting Palestinian refugees and is allowing humanitarian supplies to flow in. And the civilian deaths have made it difficult for Israel's allies in the rest of the world — including the United States — to come to its aid.

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Israel has traditionally adopted a fiercely defiant attitude to international condemnation in cases in which it believes its security is at stake, and not without reason. But in this case, it needs to consider what it stands to gain and lose. Israeli officials complained that the construction supplies being shipped to Gaza could be used by Hamas to build bunkers, rather than for their intended purpose of rebuilding Palestinian homes destroyed in the recent Gaza war. They also complained that some of  the civilians aboard the ship were anti-Israel activists. Is stopping them worth risking a debacle like this one?

Much of the debate in Israel seems to center not on the wisdom of the blockade but on the effectiveness of the military in handling the situation – whether the troops should have been equipped with more non-lethal weapons or whether they should have had better intelligence about what kind of crowd they were likely to encounter on the ship. But even if Israel had successfully stopped these ships without bloodshed, it would not have stopped the attempts to break the blockade, and it would have been confronted again and again until something like this happened.

What Israel needs is a way forward. Insisting on a continued blockade of humanitarian supplies is unsustainable. Instead, it should work with the international community to find a way to allow those supplies to reach Gaza without completely abandoning its efforts to isolate Hamas, perhaps by seeking the assistance of the United Nations or some other international body to organize the effort. No matter how justified Israelis may believe their actions to be, they have handed their opponents a massive public relations victory, and continuing the blockade in its present form is only going to make matters worse.

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