, JERUSALEM, Jun 1 – With Israel\’s reputation in tatters and its diplomatic standing under attack following a bloody naval raid on a fleet of aid ships heading to Gaza, many on Tuesday were wondering what on earth went wrong.
The graphic footage of elite naval commandos being beaten and thrown overboard by demonstrators armed with sticks and knives has shocked a country that once prided itself on daring and secretive attack and rescue missions.
"Endless questions are being asked. What happened to Israel\’s vaunted creativity? Why was the worst of all possible options chosen? Where was the army chief of staff? Where were the intelligence services?" Ari Shavit wrote in the centre-left Haaretz newspaper.
"Why didn\’t we see that instead of tightening the siege on Gaza, we were about to tighten the siege on ourselves?"
Nine demonstrators were shot dead and scores wounded, including several soldiers whom the military said had been beaten with sticks and stabbed as soon as they landed on the deck.
Organisers of the so-called "Freedom Flotilla" denied the military\’s account, saying the soldiers had started firing as soon as they landed.
The morning papers were filled with criticism over the mission, with many wondering how the defence establishment could have so misjudged the situation that they failed to even use tear-gas or smoke grenades to clear the deck of the Mavi Marmara before rappelling down without guns in hand.
"The Turkish flotilla is as much a \’peace flotilla\’ as (Iranian President) Mahmud Ahmadinejad is Mother Theresa," Ben Caspit wrote in Israel\’s Maariv daily.
"The naval operation … was complete stupidity. A mixture of failures that led to a disgraceful fiasco," Caspit added.
"But above the (military) there is a political echelon. It is the one that has to make the decision. To be cautious. To take into account unexpected entanglements and scenarios. This echelon failed abysmally yesterday."
Israel\’s mass-selling Yediot Aharonot also faulted the political leadership, with columnist Sever Plotsker calling on Defence Minister Ehud Barak to resign over the affair, saying he had "failed miserably."
"There isn\’t a broom broad enough to sweep this failure under the rug," he wrote.
The raid against boats carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists seeking to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of building and other supplies to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has sparked a chorus of international condemnation.
It has also deeply strained relations with Turkey, once Israel\’s sole Muslim ally, which has warned of "irreparable consequences" to bilateral relations.