The attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, cited “evidentiary and legal difficulties” as reasons for his decision to close the investigation on Israeli citizens suspected of committing offenses in connection with the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in May 2010, the Justice Ministry announced on Thursday.

Police had investigated suspicions that several Israeli citizens, including MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), participated in the flotilla and attempted to enter Gaza illegally, in contravention of the Disengagement Implementation Law passed in 2005. None of the Israelis was suspected of attacking the IDF soldiers who took over the flotilla, the ministry said in a press statement.

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State prosecutors examined the police findings and filed a report to Weinstein, however the attorney-general decided that the files should be closed due to significant difficulties in proving elements of the offenses and legal questions over the applicability of Israeli criminal law on foreign offenses, the statement said.

The Justice Ministry also emphasized that the attorney-general’s decision only relates to those Israeli citizens suspected of being in connection with the flotilla and did not set any rules for how any future investigations will be conducted.

Also on Thursday, Zoabi said she was “not surprised” at the decision to close the investigation files, including her own file.

“This proves what I said all along,” Zoabi said. “My participation in the flotilla was a political act and entirely legal.” Government watchdog NGO The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel slammed Weinstein’s decision, however.

“We sent out soldiers to risk their lives on the decks of the [flotilla ship] and when the court should deal with the flotilla organizers we see a shameful ineffectiveness,” said Forum director attorney Nachi Eyal.

MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) blasted the decision, saying it would serve to boost terrorism in Israel and elsewhere.

“[The decision] gives legal sanction to terrorist gangs, wherever they may be, that they are backed by the Israeli attorney- general himself,” Michaeli said.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud) called the attorney-general’s decision “cowardly and dangerous.”

“The law enforcement system was revealed today, as it bowed its head in surrender to terror supporters at home, abandoning IDF soldiers and commanders,” Levin said. “Arab MKs were given sweeping permission today to continue to betray the State of Israel and their public mission.”

Meanwhile MK Dr Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said that the decision to close the investigation files was a “green light to attack Israeli troops,” while his party colleague MK Arye Eldad said the decision was “another step in the disintegration of the rule of law.”

“Nobody would be surprised if public trust in law enforcement is eroded and if extremists decide they are justified in taking the law into their own hands,” Eldad said.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said the decision “took him by surprise” and added that it “gave a green light to severe acts such as those committed by MK Zoabi and Arab public officials.”

“It is unfortunate that the attorney-general remained on the dry edge of the law and did not make an effort to prove that there is an evidentiary basis for [the activists’] actions,” Hasson said. “This gives a very bad message to elected public representatives that they can harm the State of Israel under the protection of the law.”

MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) said that the decision showed the legal system was “soft and helpless when it comes to fighting terrorist collaborators.”

“At least elected officials have not disconnected from the people and are using the tools at their disposal against Zoabi,” Elkin said. “So we have done and so we will continue to act in order to defend our country from traitors.”

In June last year, the attorney-general also closed investigations into several foreign flotilla activists suspected of attacking IDF soldiers after deciding to allow their deportations for political and security reasons.

The High Court of Justice rejected petitions by the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin) and the Alamagor Terror Victims Association against those deportations and the closure of the investigations.