Jerusalem – In a special meeting of the inner Israeli government security cabinet that took place on Tuesday, a decision was taken to order the Israeli security establishment to deny the ships of a massive “peace flotilla” entry into Gaza.
These ships are slated to land in Gaza on Saturday or on Sunday.
The plan is for the Israeli navy to stop them upon entering Israel’s territorial waters.
Eight ships-four freighters and four passenger ships-left ports in Greece and Turkey at the beginning of the week, bearing some 800 passengers from 30 countries, most of whom are in one large ship that left Istanbul.
In addition, about 30 members of various European parliaments are on board the ships, as well as an Israeli Arab member of the Israeli Knesset Parliament, Hanin Zuabi.
Dror Feiler, one of the organizers of the flotilla, is a former Israeli and currently a Swedish citizen, made headlines in 2004 when he staged the “Snow White and the Madness of Truth” exhibit at a museum in Stockholm, depicting the figure of the suicide bomber from the Maxim restaurant (21 dead) in a blood-red pool, and elicited great anger in Israel.
Passengers aboard these ships claim to have brought humanitarian supplies, including 10 tons of medicine and medical equipment, construction materials, 100 prefabricated homes and 500 wheelchairs.
The Israeli Navy will issue warnings from different ranges to the ships not to enter Israel’s territorial waters.
The plan is that if the ships decide, nevertheless, to enter, they will be stopped by Naval Commando forces and Navy missile boats, and their passengers will be transferred to a special facility in Ashdod.
From there, passengers will be turned over to the responsibility of the Israel Interior Ministry and Immigration authorities, and sent back to the countries from which they came. The Israeli security establishment will take the cargo and, after security checks, will move it to Gaza.
An Israeli police special counter-terror unit will serve as a backup force if necessary. In addition, dogs from Oketz, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dog-handlers’ unit, will be put on the ships in order to detect explosives and bombs. In the past few days, Israel Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom has held special drills in advance of the takeover of the ships and bringing them to Israel’s shores.
Passengers without suitable permits – a valid passport or Israeli ID card – will be arrested on the spot and taken to questioning. The Israel Prisons Service has set up a special detention facility at the port, but it is feared that left wing demonstrators will come from all over Israel and try to disturb the peace.
Information that has reached Israel indicates that participants in the flotilla are preparing to contend with Israel by legal means in order to prevent their expulsion.
According to Israeli law, a foreign national who is a candidate for expulsion must be permitted to file an appeal with the court within 72 hours.
At the same time, Israel is also preparing on the public relations front: Special electronic shielding will prevent broadcasting images from the takeover and arrest to media outlets around the world.
In addition, the Israeli government has issued data showing that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is not as bad as the Palestinians assert, and that every day 100 trucks enter Gaza bearing goods, medicines, clothing and diesel oil. The Prime Minister’s Office also sent foreign correspondents a facetiously-worded e-mail, recommending that they visit the exclusive restaurants and cafés of Gaza. “We were told that the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended,” it stated, “you should ask for a discount with your press card.”
The Turkish Factor
The flotilla is spearheaded by IHH, a Turkish humanitarian relief organization that is backed by the Turkish government and is an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey.
Turkish government refused the Israeli compromise offers, which proposed to unload the goods in Ashdod and transfer them, after examination, to Gaza.
Israeli diplomatic sources assess that the Turks want a confrontation and that they want images of Israeli soldiers taking over ships and beating civilians.
The Turks speak explicitly about opening a permanent naval line between Turkey and Gaza without Israeli supervision
It is convenient for them to use the IHH, so that if and when a clash takes place on the ships, it will not appear as a direct confrontation between two states.
It is no accident that when the flotilla left Istanbul on May 22, the person who stood beside the organizer of the flotilla, Bulent Yildirim – serves as the leader of the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to a report by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, based in Herzlia, Israel senior Islamic terror leaders attended the launching ceremony in Istanbul of a boat participating in the flotilla. Among the participants were Mahmad Tzoalha and Sahar Albirawi, both top Hamas terrorists who today operate in Great Britain, and Hamam Said, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.â€¨“If the goal of the flotilla was humanitarian, they would have let Israel transfer the aid through, and would not have attempted to infiltrate the Gaza Strip in an illegal way,” explains Col. (res.) Reuven Ehrlich, a former member of the Israeli Intelligence Corps who currently heads the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. “Their only goal is to generate a provocation aimed at embarrassing Israel…”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.