'Despite flotilla setbacks, Israel still needs to prepare'

Barak: Though participation is dwindling, country must still be ready for Gaza-bound convoy, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey "actively thwarting" mission.

Ehud Barak 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Ehud Barak 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Despite the fact that the list of ships taking part in the latest Gaza-bound flotilla has dwindled, and the few remaining are experiencing delays, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday recognized that the situation is not over, saying, "We obviously still need to prepare for the possibility that flotillas will arrive."
In an official statement released by Barak's office, the defense minister said, "We are seeing positive developments regarding the flotilla. The governments of Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey are active in thwarting it. This is a result of extensive work by the Foreign Ministry and prime minister."
According to Barak, the "influencing factor" in successful efforts to prevent the flotilla has been "that it is clear to everyone that Gaza, ultimately, is open to all civilian products."
Earlier Sunday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio that flotilla activists are trying to put the blame on someone else for their failure.
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Commenting on the flotilla organizers' claims that Israel deliberately tried to sabotage the ships, Lieberman said the activists are attempting "to avoid responsibility for the failure of their propaganda, and their inability to get support from the world and international media."
Although Greece issued a blanket ban forbidding ships from sailing to Gaza, and despite technical problems experienced by several ships, some activists are still determined to set sail. Adam Shapiro, an American co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and one of the organizers of the flotilla, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that the group still planned to sail to the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
He said that the Greek-Swedish ship Juliano, which was allegedly sabotaged last week, was expected to be repaired by Sunday morning and that an Irish ship, also allegedly sabotaged in Turkey, was set to begin repairs soon.
“We are still arranging to go and are working on different fronts to get permission to leave,” Shapiro said by phone from Athens.
He also denied reports that organizers were considering canceling the flotilla since they had already achieved their goal by raising awareness regarding the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“Gaza is still blockaded and there is still a need to sail there,” he said.
Yaakov Katz, Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.