MKs aim to thwart flotilla probe

Plessner: The Turks are opening another front against us.

plessner 311 (photo credit: Ariel Van Straten)
plessner 311
(photo credit: Ariel Van Straten)
A Knesset delegation to the Council of Europe is seeking to block a key vote Thursday through which Turkey is seeking to establish a council-sponsored international probe into Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla earlier this month.
The parliamentary delegation – led by Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner – has worked since Tuesday to try and soften the blow expected to be dealt to Israel by the European organization.
The Council of Europe is an interparliamentary group consisting of over 500 delegates representing 50 European countries. Israel has held observer status for decades at the council, which Plessner 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 Plessner. “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.”
Plessner said the Knesset delegation had been doing extensive behind-the-scenes diplomacy to mitigate the resolution, which will be voted upon both in the council’s Diplomatic Affairs Committee and in its plenum on Thursday.
“This is very intensive work,” Plessner explained. “In the initial proposal, they did not agree to relate at all to the relaxation of the blockade, or even to note it. The text still calls for relaxation of the blockade as if Israel has done nothing thus far.”
Plessner said that although he and his cohorts were working hard to represent the country’s interests, the failure of the Europeans to recognize the easing of the blockade “shows the failure of our government in marketing that decision. We are having trouble getting credit for steps Israel has already taken.”
The Kadima 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.
Those who support it are willing to do it behind closed doors, but not in public during the hearings.”
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.”
Plessner 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.”