Israel asked Turks to prevent sail of another flotilla

Ambassador to Turkey says no problem transporting aid legally; government mulls allowing third party to inspect vessels for weapons.

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
Israel has asked the Turkish government to prevent the sailing next month of another IHH flotilla to mark a year since the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel’s envoy in Turkey said Tuesday.
Gabi Levy told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review that he explained Israel’s view to the Turkish government. According to the Daily News, the message was given verbally to Halit Cevik, deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
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Levy said that Israel had no problem with the transportation of humanitarian aid into Gaza through the legal channels.
“The passages to Gaza are open. There is a greater flexibility on the Israeli side. The quota for 220 trucks cannot even be filled as there is no need for more aid. Under these conditions, such an aid campaign could only be seen as provocation,” Levy was quoted as saying.
Levy did not relate to how Israel would react to another flotilla, beyond saying that “international law permits countries to intervene with ships that could pose a threat to their national security.”
The paper quoted a Turkish diplomat saying Israel’s request was “still being evaluated.”
The report also said that the new convoy was set to depart in mid-June, a couple of weeks after the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident, in consideration of the upcoming Turkish general elections slated for June 12 .
According to the paper, Turkey would likely keep a low profile in this year’s flotilla both because of a reluctance to trigger a new crisis with Israel, and because of the fact that the IHH and other Turkish civil-society organizations participating in the effort are more closely aligned with the Felicity Party and other conservative political parties, than with the ruling AKP Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Nine Turks were killed when they attacked IDF commandos who landed on the Mavi Marmara outside of Israel’s territorial waters to prevent it from reaching Gaza last May.
The government, at various levels – including in meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and in the security cabinet – is preparing different options for ways to deal with the flotilla, expected to be larger than the one last year.
One possibility under discussion includes having the Israel Navy board the ships participating in the flotilla at sea, inspect them and then if they are clear of weaponry, allow them to sail to the Gaza Strip.
Another possibility raised during the discussions was having the ships dock at a foreign port – such as Cyprus – where they would be inspected and, if found clear of weapons, be allowed to sail to the Gaza Strip.
“We want to avoid a confrontation with the ships since it is obvious that the organizers want a provocation and media attention,” one senior IDF officer said.
Those in favor of allowing the ships to sail to Gaza claim that if the ships are inspected at sea and found clean of weaponry the Israeli-imposed sea blockade would still be intact even if the ships then sailed to the Gaza Strip.
“We will be showing the world that when we say that we have imposed a blockade it is just for security and not civilian and if the ships are inspected and not carrying weaponry then this will fit that model,” the officer said.
Those opposed to allowing the ships into Gaza claim that by easing the blockade, Israel would be setting a dangerous precedent and could potentially face dozens of more flotillas that would try to sail to Gaza.