Israel to Turkey: Help us thwart upcoming Gaza flotilla
Israel's ambassador to Turkey reiterates Jerusalem's opposition to the naval 'provocation,' says Israel would allow the pass of humanitarian aid through other channels.
Israel contacted Turkey concerning a Gaza aid flotilla planned for May of this year, an Israeli official said on Tuesday, reiterating Israel's objection to a breaking of Gaza's naval blockade and its willingness to transfer aid to the Strip via legal channels.
The message came amid a Channel 2 report claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was mulling the possibility of allowing the flotilla to reach Gaza if flotilla organizers agreed their vessels be checked by an international force.
Security officials and the Foreign Ministry have been preparing feverishly for the expected arrival of another Gaza flotilla in late May. More than 1,000 leftists and pro-Palestinian activists are expected to take part in the flotilla, which sources say will include more than 20 vessels of various sizes.
Drawing lessons from the controversy over the raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship last May, and from the recommendations made after the investigation of the incident by the Turkel commission, Israeli officials are preparing in advance for another such protest at sea.
In recent weeks, Jerusalem has engaged in a large-scale diplomatic effort aimed at pressuring heads of states in countries from which ships are expected to sail, to discourage their citizens from taking part.
The hope is that such an effort will head off a large-scale "sequel" to last year's flotilla. Furthermore, in the event that another military raid is called for, this time Israel wants to be able to claim that every possible effort was made to stop the ships peaceably.
In an interview to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on Tuesday Israeli ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy said that Jerusalem had commenced talks with the Turkish government in an attempt to thwart the planned flotilla, saying that Israel had passed on the message that the flotilla was a "provocation" and must be stopped.
The Israeli envoy also said he met the general director of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, where he conveyed a similar message in person.
Levy reiterated that Jerusalem did not see any problem with the legal passing of humanitarian aid to the Hamas-ruled Strip, something that the Turkish Red Crescent was already doing.
Israel's ambassador to Ankara said that the missive Israel sent out to Turkey did not indicate whether or not the flotilla would be stopped by force, saying: "Our position in this matter is known and international law allows us to intervene if the ships pose a security threat."
Levy also said that Israel had already appealed several countries in the matter, including Greece, the United States, and Frace.
The Cyprus-headquartered international Free Gaza movement and other pro-Palestinian organizations plan to send more than 15 ships to Gaza.
A government briefing concerning with the planned flotilla held earlier Tuesday indicated that Israel's policy concerning the event has not changed, saying that that ships would be stopped by force if indeed they sailed to Gaza.