The Council of Europe called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza “without prejudice to its own security” on Thursday.The council welcomed the announcement of a partial easing of the blockade, but said there should be access by land and sea to allow in the goods necessary for “normal living conditions” and to permit economic development.RELATED:MKs aim to thwart flotilla probeThe assembly also said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla was “manifestly disproportionate” and a breach of international law.
It called on Israel to co-operate fully with the international community to ensure a “prompt, international, impartial and transparent enquiry” into what happened.IsraeliMKs claimed to have thwarted an effort by Turkish parliamentarians on Thursday, to use the Council of Europe for a far worse condemnation.
Extensivelobbying by the Knesset's delegation to the inter-parliamentary body, preceded the change to the motion's text.The Israeli delegation was led by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, who worked from Tuesday to try and soften the resolution the European organization planned to pass. Plesner noted that the final resolution had not established a probe to investigate the raid and had praised Israel's efforts to reduce the blockade.The Council of Europe is an inter-parliamentary group consisting of over 500 delegates representing 50 European countries. Israel has held observer status for decades at the council, which Plesner said usually focuses on issues concerning the advancement of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.The council is currently holding its summer session, and for the first time ever, the council’s president is a member of the Turkish delegation – a fact that, this summer, has serious implications for Israel.“The Turks are opening another front against Israel – this time in Strasbourg, at the Council of Europe,” complained Plesner. “On Monday, they revealed – by surprise – that they wanted to hold a chain of emergency hearings on the flotilla and Gaza. The current president said in an interview with a Turkish newspaper that he wants the Council of Europe to exercise its authority to establish an international probe into the Gaza flotilla.”Plesner said the Knesset delegation had done extensive behind-the-scenes diplomacy to mitigate the resolution, which was voted upon both in the council’s Diplomatic Affairs Committee and in its plenum.TheKadima MK, who has chaired the Israeli delegation to the Council of Europe for 18 months, echoed complaints made by other parliamentary representatives to international bodies that “there is no doubt that there is a trend even among our friends in which Israel is beginning to be perceived as a burden or a cause for embarrassment.He explained that “the perception of Israel, due to propaganda, is that we are the enemies of liberal values, and here especially, the liberal discourse is very strong. If you are not part of this, you are isolated.”Plesner continued, “We are trying to present the hypocrisy of the other side, which is taking advantage of the liberal discourse to advance illiberal behavior. I understand that this is partially due to changes within Europe with the increase of the strength of Islam, where parliamentarians feel that they can earn credit with their voters by condemning Israel.”