Israel Set to Intercept Gaza-bound Flotilla
JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Israeli Navy is preparing to intercept a Swedish vessel planning to set sail for the Gaza Strip in the next few days. At least two Israeli Arab parliamentarians would like to join protesters on board the latest flotilla.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called support for flotillas a "rape of the truth" at Monday's Jewish Agency Assembly in Tel Aviv.
"If we learned anything from our history, anything, it's that when you recognize a clear and present danger, don't sit on your hands, and for God's sake, don't keep your mouth shut," Netanyahu told participants.
Five years ago, Balad MK Haneen Zoabi joined pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Turkish flagship Mavi Marmara. The activists were seeking to break an Israeli blockade of the Gaza port that prevents weaponry for attacking Israel to be brought by sea.
When the ship's captain refused to sail to Ashdod instead of Gaza, Israeli naval commandos attempting to board were attacked with knives, stun grenades, chains, and metal pipes as they touched down on deck.
When it became obvious their lives were in danger, they were given permission to use live ammunition against their attackers, killing nine of them.
The confrontation aboard the Mavi Marmara became an international incident, with Israel portrayed as the aggressor, even after the IDF released video footage of the sequence of events and revealed details of its planning.
The Knesset Ethics Committee later suspended Zoabi of some parliamentary rights. Today she's threatening to join the Swedish flotilla planning to set sail for Gaza by midweek.
While Zoabi has yet to decide if she'll join the latest attempt to delegitimize Israel, fellow MK Basel Ghattas said he'll be on board Sweden's Marianne av Goteborg, which left its home port at the end of May with stops in Sicily and Athens en route to Gaza.
In a letter to Netanyahu, Ghattas said the ship is a "flotilla of peace" meant to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians living in an "open air prison under horrendous conditions," for which he blames Israel.
Ghattas warned the prime minister that any action Israel takes to thwart the flotilla "will further embroil Israel in controversy."
Left, Right and Center Speak Out
Israeli parliamentarians across the political spectrum rejected his premise.
The Zionist Union, which heads the oppositon, released a statement accusing participants of a political, rather than a humanitarian, agenda aimed at legitimizing Hamas and increasing terror against Israel.
MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid) said Ghattas "would be better off fighting for equal rights for Arabs."
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said "the whole purpose of the Joint Arab List is to hurt the State of Israel, while using Israeli democracy in an attempt to destroy it."
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said "Flotillas like the one making its way to Israel are the handiwork of provocateurs who only want to make Israel look bad."
The Israeli Navy has intercepted numbers of Iranian arms shipments en route to Gaza over the years.
In March 2014, naval commandos intercepted a ship carrying 40 long-range missiles, nearly 200 mortars and 400,000 rounds of ammunition. It wasn't the first and will likely not be the last attempt to smuggle weapons to Hamas by sea.
"The weapons on this ship were destined for terrorists in Gaza who are committed to Israel's destruction," Netanyahu said at the time.
Gaza Is Not Destitute
Israel transfers all types of consumer goods to Gaza, from food to medicines, fuel, construction material and other types of humanitarian aid. Its open-air markets and grocery stores are well stocked. It has shopping malls, children's playgrounds, and nice restaurants.
The real problem in the Gaza Strip is Hamas, the Palestinian faction running the government there. Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, took control of the Strip in a bloody military coup in June 2007. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel.
Like other Islamic groups, Hamas requires submission to Sharia law. The government sponsors terror training camps for Gaza youth and its children's television programs paint Israel as an occupier of what is rightfully their land.
From rockets, missiles, and mortars fired on Israeli population centers to roadside bombs, sniper fire, and terror tunnels dug under Israel's border, Hamas is open about its intent to wipe Israel off the map.
Under international law, Israel's blockade of the Gaza port is legal. It would be foolhardy indeed to provide Hamas with an open port to further its stated goal to destroy the Jewish nation-state.