Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Monday Israel was rethinking its threat to bar foreign journalists from entering the country for 10 years if they board a new aid flotilla that plans to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"(Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) heard about it on the news and asked to re-examine this issue because it's problematic," Ya'alon said, referring to Sunday's warning from Israel's Government Press Office (GPO).
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"I know the prime minister was as surprised as I was to hear this," he said, without disclosing who had made the decision to deliver the threat.
"There's no way to stop the media in this day and age if they (are on board) anyway. It's better not to clash with them."
The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem described the warning, which
GPO director Oren Helman sent to international media organizations, as a
"chilling message" that raised questions about Israel's commitment to
freedom of the press.
Pro-Palestinian activists have said around a dozen ships carrying aid to
the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip could depart from European ports in the
Israel has made clear it will enforce the blockade it says is aimed at stopping weaponry from reaching Hamas.
Palestinians say the blockade is illegal and is helping to strangle
Gaza's economy. Israeli officials have said the convoy could dock in
Egypt or Israel and have its cargo of aid transferred overland to the
In an email, Helman said participation in the flotilla would be "an
intentional violation" of Israeli law and could result in a 10-year
entry ban to Israel and the impounding of journalists' equipment.
A year ago, nine Turkish activists, including one with dual US-Turkish
nationality, were killed by Israeli soldiers who raided a Gaza-bound aid
convoy and were confronted by passengers wielding clubs and knives.
Netanyahu's security cabinet discussed the new flotilla on Monday. A
statement from the Prime Minister's Office reaffirmed "Israel is
determined to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza with as little
friction as possible with its passengers".