Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position.
I think Israel has been trying to avoid truly decisive, and very bloody, military action in the hope that by containing the situation, time will be on its side, and the strategic situation will change for the better, e.g., the Iranian mullahcracy will be overthrown (seemed plausible last year), the Lebanese government will get the strength to kick out Hezbollah (seemed plausible a few years back), Hamas will collapse, etc. So far, not so good, and the strategic situation has seriously deteriorated in at least two ways: Turkey has gone from an ally to a virtual enemy, and Hezbollah has rearmed itself in Lebanon with much better missiles than it had previously. Actually, three ways: instead of having a clear friend in the White House, Israel has a lukewarm ally.
UPDATE: Further evidence of unique stupidity–IDF: We didn’t sabotage Gaza aid ship in bid to avoid humanitarian crisis. Senior officer hints the IDF disabled the engines of the other five ships in the Gaza aid flotilla, says Marmara was too large and could have been stuck at sea for days.
FURTHER UPDATE: The whole Gaza blockade is an example of this stupidity. Israel claims to be in a state of war with Gaza. But for “humanitarian reasons”, it lets in many tons of supplies every week, provides Gaza with electricity, allows Gaza residents to get medical treatment in Israel, and turns a largely blind eye to smuggling via the Egyptian border. In other words, the blockade lowers the Gazan’s standard of living and causes international outrage, but doesn’t actually put sufficient pressure on the Gazans to cause them to want to either overthrow their government or surrender. And since Hamas controls the smuggling trade, the blockade enriches the government. I’m not saying Israel should enforce a true blockade, including the cutoff of electricity. I am saying that there’s something to be said for either using enough force to accomplish your objective, or not using force at all.