There was no need to endanger Israeli troops.
How could Ehud Barak not see the looming disaster? Stopping a large Gaza-bound ship could have been carried out below the waterline, or by an assault on the bridge, using smoke bombs and tear gas to take control. Dropping individual soldiers into a mob of hostile people lacks reason.
The confrontation could have been handled with moach (brains) rather than koach (brawn). But that’s not Barak’s way: his history of misusing power and his lack of leadership goes back to the Yom Kippur War, at the least.
In 1973, Barak botched a rescue operation during the “Chinese Farm” battle near the Suez Canal and failed to rescue soldiers under the command of General Yitzhak Mordechai.
In 1982, during Operation Peace for Galilee — in which Israel attacked PLO and terrorist groups in Lebanon — Barak commanded the IDF in the eastern region of South Lebanon. He ordered an attack at Sultan Yakoub, in which Israeli soldiers were ambushed by Syrian army commandos and PLO guerilla units. Overpowered and suffering heavy losses, the IDF unit repeatedly begged for help to rescue them. Barak failed to respond. In that battle, 23 IDF soldiers were killed and three were captured: Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz. Missing in action, their fate is still unknown.
Five years later, when the “first intifada” broke out, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin assigned Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna, and Dan Shomron — whose political views trumped military necessity — to quell the rebellion. They failed miserably. This not only encouraged Palestinian terrorists, especially Fatah and Hamas, but led to the PLO’s rehabilitation and the disastrous Oslo Accords in 1993, which Barak implemented.
According to Reuven Pedatzur, writing in Haaretz on November 5, 2000:
On the eve of the Gulf War , a decision to scuttle the project [to purchase submarines] was taken at the IDF General Staff: that is, to leave the navy without any submarines at all. Only the stricken conscience of Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor, after the extent of German aid to the Iraqis became known, led to the decision to fund the submarines. Thus, it was German money that saved the submarine project. …
The General Staff’s decision is cause for concern because all those who took part in the discussion knew very well, based on intelligence estimates, that within a small number of years Israel would be threatened by nuclear weapons. It is difficult to fathom how those who are supposed to be familiar with and to understand strategic thinking in the modern era decided to give up the strategic potential inherent in submarines.
[The] person who led the opposition to building the submarines in that discussion, and the person whose position prevailed in the end, was none other than the person who served at the time as deputy chief of staff, Ehud Barak.
In 1992, during a training exercise at the Tze’elim base, a missile hit a unit by mistake, killing five soldiers and seriously wounding six more. Watching this tragedy, Barak did nothing to help and refused to allow his helicopter to be used in the rescue operation. He was severely criticized for his behavior.
As prime minister in 1999, Barak gave away the entire gas and oil fields off the Gaza coast to the PA … for nothing, and without conditions. He never explained his decision.