Israeli politicians, security forces push ahead to thwart new Gaza flotilla
IDF and security officials instructed to prepare for arrival of convoy, Foreign Minister told to continue diplomatic efforts to maintain naval blockade and 'prevent the smuggling of weapons to terror organizations and attacks on Israel'.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his inner cabinet on Wednesday to continue diplomatic efforts to thwart an upcoming Gaza aid flotilla, a statement said on Wednesday, adding that the premier also instructed Israel's security forces to prepare for the flotilla's possible arrival.
The flotilla, which was expected to set sail in May, will now probably only embark in mid-June, its organizers preferring to wait for the outcome of the election to the Turkish parliament.
Following a meeting of Netanyahu's inner cabinet, or Forum of Seven, on Wednesday, a statement by the Prime Minister's Office said that the premier had "instructed the Foreign Minister to continue diplomatic efforts geared at stopping the flotilla."
The statement also indicated that the Israel Defense Forces and security officials to continue the "necessary preparations to ensure the enforcement of the naval blockade on Gaza."
"The purpose of the blockade is to prevent the smuggling of weapons to terror organizations and prevent attacks on Israel," the statement added.
Meanwhile, the review panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate last year's flotilla affair is expected to release its findings in another two weeks.
The new flotilla, which is also being organized by left-wing groups from Europe and the United States, along with the Turkish IHH organization, is meant to mark the one-year anniversary of the Mavi Marmara's controversial voyage. During the raid on the Marmara last May 31, nine Turkish activists were killed by members of the IDF's naval commando unit.
The new flotilla is expected to include about 20 vessels, including the Mavi Marmara. IHH has made clear in recent weeks that unlike the case with the previous flotilla, the current convoy will not set sail from Turkish ports. Instead, it will embark from another Mediterranean country.
This, along with the expected delay in the launching date, has led Israeli Foreign Ministry officials to speculate that the flotilla organizers do not want to embarrass the Turkish government.
"Such facts actually reflect the strengthening of connections between the Turkish government and the flotilla's organizers," said one Foreign Ministry source.
At this stage, the Netanyahu government has not altered its policy, which stipulates that any vessel making an attempt to run the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip will be stopped forcibly.