Israel continues to prepare for the arrival later this month of a Gaza-bound
flotilla, even though the highest-profile backer – the Turkish based Humanitarian
Relief Foundation, IHH, with its flagship Mavi Marmara – backed out.
are continuing to prepare for the flotilla as usual,” said one Israeli
diplomatic official. “We have not heaved a sigh of relief, but are continuing to
prepare on all fronts, including the diplomatic front.”
IDF releases video of navy in simulated flotilla drill
Organizer says flotilla to sail even if IHH cancels
Ministry has established a task force to coordinate efforts, and that task force
is continuing its operations, the official said.
These efforts include
persuading certain countries – such as Greece and Cyprus – to close their ports
to ships taking part in the flotilla, and trying to get foreign governments to
dissuade their nationals from taking part in the flotilla.
Some of these
efforts seem to be paying dividends, as Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was
reported to have told his parliament on Thursday that “it goes without saying
that Sweden cannot give any guarantees for security for a trip of this
Bildt, who in the past has been outspoken in his criticism of
Israel, was quoted as saying that according to international humanitarian law
“Israel has the right to inspect whether the ships are bringing in prohibited
On Friday, Fehmi Bulent, the president of IHH, said the decision
to keep the Mavi Marmara from participating was taken because it was damaged by
Israel last year.
The Turkish media reported last week that the Turkish
government, fresh from electoral victory last Sunday, was pressuring the IHH to
back away from the flotilla.
The US, according to reports, has also been
pressing Turkey to do what it could to stop the flotilla.
Israeli officials involved in the matter welcomed the decision, saying that the
whole flotilla idea was a “provocation” at a time when humanitarian aid was
getting into Gaza through established channels.
One official said the
hope was that some of the other organizations involved in the flotilla, who have
said they will carry on with plans to set sail, would be influenced by the IHH
There was a sense in Jerusalem that following last Sunday’s
elections, Ankara may be interested in hitting the “reset” button in its
severely strained ties with Israel. One official said that while anti-Israel
rhetoric was heard almost everyday in the run-up to the Turkish national
elections, since last Sunday, Israel-bashing comments from top Turkish officials
have been almost absent.
One official indicated that if there did indeed
appear to be a new atmosphere emerging, then Israel could perhaps make a gesture
of its own without “harming national interests.”
Turkey, according to
another school of thought in Jerusalem, may be keen on avoiding tensions with
Israel now over another flotilla because of the tense situation it faces on its
southern border as refugees are coming across from Syria. There is a feeling in
Jerusalem that Turkey is now looking to avoid another source of “agitation.”