Fate of Gaza flotilla remains vague

Navy prepares to block fleet of 9 ships as IDF awaits PM's orders.

GazaProtestFlotilla311 (photo credit: .)
(photo credit: .)
While the navy is preparing to stop nine international aid ships thatwill try to reach the Gaza Strip later this week, the military is stillwaiting to receive a final order of what to do from Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu, defense officials told The JerusalemPost on Tuesday.
In the past, Israel has threatened, like it is now, to stop activists’vessels from reaching the Gaza Port but then allowed them through theIDF blockade. Netanyahu has made no comment on the matter, remainingpurposely vague to keep the organizers guessing as to Israel’s trueintentions.
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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 inthe Territories have in recent days launched a media campaign to stressthat the supplies the ships are carrying are unnecessary and thatIsrael – together with various international organizations – alreadytransfers 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 tobring humanitarian supplies into Gaza, comes after theFinancial Times, in a story it ran on Monday, wrotethat the 200 to 300 smuggling tunnels from Egypt into Gaza “have becomeso efficient that shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods.”
According to the FT report, “Branded products suchas Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup – long absent as aresult of the Israeli blockade – are both cheap and widely available.However, the tunnel operators have also flooded Gaza with Koreanrefrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units.Tunnel operators and traders alike complain of a saturated market – andfalling prices.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said, “These people call themselveshuman rights activist, but they are the opposite. They have nothingwhatsoever to say about the human rights of Israeli civilians who havebeen on the receiving end of Hamas rockets for years. They have nothingwhatsoever to say about the human rights of Palestinians who live inGaza under the jackboots of the Hamas regime that oppresses women,Christians, and gays – a regime that has brutally suppressed allpolitical opposition, destroyed independent media, closed down Internetcafes, and has even made it illegal for a male hairdresser to cut thehair of a woman.”
Regev pointed out that in the past the leaders of this movement havecome to Gaza and “eagerly had their photographs taken with Hamasleaders. 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, milkpowder, baby food, wheat and other staples. In addition, he said,building materials are allowed in when monitored by internationalorganizations that ensure that the materials will not be commandeeredby Hamas for the fortification of bunkers.
Palmor said the organizers of the flotilla are aware that landcrossings remain the most efficient way of transferring goods. But, hesaid, “they are less interested in bringing in aid than in promotingtheir radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations.While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they areengaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid.”
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.