While the navy is preparing to stop nine international aid ships that
will try to reach the Gaza Strip later this week, the military is still
waiting to receive a final order of what to do from Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, defense officials told The Jerusalem
In the past, Israel has threatened, like it is now, to stop activists’
vessels from reaching the Gaza Port but then allowed them through the
IDF blockade. Netanyahu has made no comment on the matter, remaining
purposely vague to keep the organizers guessing as to Israel’s true
intentions.RELATED:Israel prepares for protest flotilla'Most Cast Lead damage not repaired'
Though vague on whether the ships will be allowed to arrive, government spokesmen are unequivocal in stating that what interests the organizers are not human rights in Gaza, but rather bashing Israel.
The vessels, carrying 10,000 tons of cargo and some 550 pro-Palestinian activists, will probably reach the coastal waters of Gaza by Friday or Saturday, Dror Feiler, one of the organizers, said by satellite phone from aboard the Swedish-Greek ship Sofia
The ships set sail from Ireland, Sweden, Turkey and Greece, Feiler said. Some are carrying television crews that plan to broadcast live any confrontation between the IDF and the activists.
“This is not going to look good on television,” said the 58-year-old Feiler, who was born in Tel Aviv and has lived in Stockholm since 1973. He served in the IDF Paratroopers Brigade and refused to serve in the territories in 1970 as one of the first “refuseniks.”
“We’re on a peaceful mission to help end the misery of the people in Gaza and it’s going to be very ugly if Israeli soldiers try to take over our ships,” he said.
Feiler is now the chairman of the Swedish organization Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the European organization European Jews for a Just Peace.
The navy is preparing an operational plan to stop the ships.
In addition, the IDF has established a task force together with the Israel Police, the Foreign Ministry and the Prisons Service to coordinate efforts to stop the flotilla and manage the media fallout.
The ministry and Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in
the Territories have in recent days launched a media campaign to stress
that the supplies the ships are carrying are unnecessary and that
Israel – together with various international organizations – already
transfers these supplies to Gaza via land crossings.
The police and the Prisons Service will be on standby to deal with the arrest of the activists, if that becomes necessary.
One official pointed out that the flotilla, billed as an effort to
bring humanitarian supplies into Gaza, comes after the
, in a story it ran on Monday, wrote
that the 200 to 300 smuggling tunnels from Egypt into Gaza “have become
so efficient that shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods.”
According to the FT
report, “Branded products such
as Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup – long absent as a
result of the Israeli blockade – are both cheap and widely available.
However, the tunnel operators have also flooded Gaza with Korean
refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units.
Tunnel operators and traders alike complain of a saturated market – and
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said, “These people call themselves
human rights activist, but they are the opposite. They have nothing
whatsoever to say about the human rights of Israeli civilians who have
been on the receiving end of Hamas rockets for years. They have nothing
whatsoever to say about the human rights of Palestinians who live in
Gaza under the jackboots of the Hamas regime that oppresses women,
Christians, and gays – a regime that has brutally suppressed all
political opposition, destroyed independent media, closed down Internet
cafes, and has even made it illegal for a male hairdresser to cut the
hair of a woman.”
Regev pointed out that in the past the leaders of this movement have
come to Gaza and “eagerly had their photographs taken with Hamas
leaders. Some human rights activists,” he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the land crossings were more than capable of meeting Gaza’s needs.
According to Palmor, 15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week,
including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, milk
powder, baby food, wheat and other staples. In addition, he said,
building materials are allowed in when monitored by international
organizations that ensure that the materials will not be commandeered
by Hamas for the fortification of bunkers.
Palmor said the organizers of the flotilla are aware that land
crossings remain the most efficient way of transferring goods. But, he
said, “they are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting
their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations.
While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are
engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid.”
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.