State rebuffs court petitions, flotilla activists can go

All passengers, except one seriously injured, on their way out.

By DAN IZENBERG
June 3, 2010 05:11
3 minute read.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch

dorit beinisch 311 Ariel Jerozolimski. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

All of the foreign passengers on board the six vessels that tried to break Israel’s naval blockade and deliver humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip were free to go and all but one, who is too seriously wounded to travel, were on their way out of the country, State Attorney Moshe Lador informed the High Court of Justice on Wednesday.

The participation of the state attorney in a court hearing is extremely rare. Lador decided to represent the state in person because of the acute external and internal controversies that had been aroused by the IDF’s interception of the vessels and the decision to release all of the passengers, including those who allegedly attacked the soldiers with knives, clubs and iron rods.

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The hearing, which began late in the afternoon, involved six petitions. Three of them demanded information on the whereabouts of all or some of the passengers, all of whom had been brought to Ashdod. The other three asked the court to overrule the decision of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, to halt the police investigation of the events that took place on the Turkish ferry, Mavi Marmara.

Earlier in the day, Weinstein, informed the High Court that he had accepted a recommendation from the security cabinet to allow all of the passengers to leave the country.

“I reached this decision,” he told the court, “after I took into consideration, on the one hand, the overall public interest in enforcing the law, and, on the other hand, the recommendation of the political echelon, which was based, among other things, on the decision of the Security Council of June 1, which called for the immediate release of all the citizens who had arrived on the flotilla and on requests from foreign countries and international organizations.

“I also took into account the fact that in the context of the events, nine people were killed among the participants in the flotilla and about two dozen more were wounded, as well as other relevant considerations. I reached the conclusion that the diplomatic and security interests, upon which the political echelon based its recommendation, were the stronger ones under the circumstances.”

Weinstein added that “continuing to hold these elements in Israel will hurt Israel’s vital interests more than it will help them.”

Lador came to court to defend Weinstein’s decision, to defend Israel’s interception of the boats and to refute the allegations included in one of the petitions, which accused the Israeli naval commandos of “slaughtering” the passengers.

After describing the security threat to southern Israel from Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, Lador said that one of the partial solutions that Israel had come up with was to try to stop ships from bringing weapons to Gaza.

“Therefore,” he said, “we began, in accordance with customary international law, a sea blockade to prevent the possibility of bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip.

In the current case, despite the rhetoric that the flotilla carried supplies of equipment, food and medicine for humanitarian needs, if Israel has no control over this cargo,” we would be making it possible to create the largest stockpile of weapons of any terrorist organization in the entire world within the borders of the Gaza Strip. Israel cannot allow itself to let this happen.

“Let us not kid ourselves. It is true that there are people who believe in one thing or another [i.e. believe in what they are doing for idealistic reasons] and perhaps some of these were on board the boats. But the bottom line is we would be opening the way to unsupervised shipping to the Gaza Strip, with boats carrying weapons, missiles and the like, threatening Israel’s security. We could not allow this.”

Lador called on the court to reject all the petitions since, in his opinion, they were all irrelevant once the government had decided to release all the passengers.

He also took the opportunity to blast attorneys Omer Shatz, Yiftah Cohen and Itamar Mann, who had charged that Israel’s sea blockade on Gaza was illegal, and had accused the naval commandos of perpetrating a slaughter. Lador asked the court to impose punitive expenses on them.

Justices Dorit Beinisch and Miriam Naor also accused these petitioners of using harsh and provocative language.

Naor asked them if they were prepared to apologize for using the word “slaughter.” The lawyers did so.


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