Ban urged to take a public stand against next IHH flotilla

J'lem's envoy to UN Reuben says Israel "not interested in confrontation"; Turkey says flotilla "not Ankara’s concern", is an "initiative by civil society."

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
With Israel eager to leave a paper trail showing it warned world leaders to prevent another IHH Gaza flotilla, Jerusalem’s envoy to the UN, Meron Reuben, sent a letter on Thursday to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to make public statements against participation in the action.
“In the past year, the United Nations, under your leadership, played an important role in preventing the launch of provocative flotillas by extremist elements in Lebanon,” the letter read.
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“A clear message from you and other leaders in the international community on the subject of the anticipated flotilla can have a positive influence in preventing the unnecessary escalation of tension in our troubled region.”
Reuben recommended a scheduled April 21 debate in the Security Council on the Middle East as “one possible forum for raising the issue.”
Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have made similar appeals to Ban in recent weeks, as Israel is stepping up its diplomatic efforts to try and keep the flotilla from setting sail.
“Israel,” Reuben wrote, “is not interested in confrontation but is firmly determined to enforce the naval blockade – and will continue to remain closely engaged with other members of the international community to try and halt this unnecessary provocation.”
Reuben said that the protest flotilla, which may include some 15 ships and more than 1,000 people, is set to include “numerous participants” who have made “very troubling statements expressing their willingness to become martyrs in this effort,” adding that the chairman of the Turkish based IHH, Bulent Yildrim, said in a recent speech that Zionism is “like a virus that has infected all of humanity.”
The envoy said that the blockade of the Gaza Strip remained in force, and that any vessel trying to breach it “may be subject to naval action to enforce the blockade, in accordance with international law applicable to armed conflicts at sea.”
The reason for the blockade, Reuben reiterated, was to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition to the Gaza Strip, such as occurred on March 18 with the interdiction of the Victoria and its shipment of arms from Iran and Syria to terrorist groups in Gaza.
“It is clear that this anticipated flotilla is designed to serve as a political provocation and not to advance a humanitarian goal, Reuben wrote, pointing out that there were established mechanisms through which humanitarian aid could be delivered to the Gaza Strip.
The flotilla is organizing to set sail at the end of May, marking the one-year anniversary to the Mavi Marmara incident – the first Gaza flotilla where nine Turks were killed when they attacked IDF commandos trying to keep their ship from reaching Gaza’s shores.
Back then the prime minister was on a visit to Canada. Netanyahu may be out of the country this time as well, since he is scheduled to be in Washington during the last week of May.
Turkey said on Thursday it had received a request from Israel to help stop the flotilla, but it said the plan was not Ankara’s concern.
“We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society, ” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters without elaborating.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.