A word from the Israeli Embassy

June 3, 2010 by J-Wire
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Israerl’s Ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, has published an article in today’s Canberra Times…and has sent a copy for J-Wire readers…

Yuval Rotem

The unfortunate situation that has occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara, the head ship of the protest flotilla headed for the Gaza strip, was never one that Israel desired or intended.  The tragic outcome of the IDF intervention was a direct result of the true intentions of the flotilla. Those aboard the Mavi Marmara were concerned not with the humanitarian needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip, but rather with provoking Israel into an aggressive confrontation.

It is clear from the actions and statements of the antagonists that their primary goal was never to provide humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. Rather they sought to manipulate international opinion and inflame tensions with Israel.  Before their departure and en route, the organizers of the flotilla clearly stated that they were determined to break the naval blockade at all costs – without regard for the safety of their participants or the wellbeing of the people of Gaza.   Bulent Yildirim, the leader of the IHH organisation, one of the primary organisers of the flotilla, announced just prior to boarding that, “we are going to resist and resistance will win.”

Israel is forced to enact a naval blockade against the Gaza Strip in order to protect the security and sovereignty of the Israeli people.  In the last year alone, more than 1000 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip in to Israel by the terrorist organisation Hamas.  These rockets were constructed from materials smuggled in to Gaza.   Israel can not forego checking aid that goes into Gaza as this ignores potential security implications including the smuggling of arms and explosives under the guise of humanitarian transfers.

It was understood that much of the cargo aboard the flotilla was humanitarian supplies to be delivered to the Gaza strip.  However this does not mean that the safety of the people of Israel can be compromised.  In order to facilitate the aid reaching Gaza, Israel approached the organizers of the flotilla on multiple occasions – prior to their departure and while at sea – and invited them to dock at the Port of Ashdod for the purpose of transferring their cargo to Gaza. These offers were rejected. Similar offers to transfer the aid supplies were also made by Egyptian authorities. Still the organisers refused assistance in transferring the supplies indicating repeatedly that their purpose was not humanitarian but provocation.  If this was truly a humanitarian convoy, the rejection of offers of assistance must lie in question.

The Israeli Navy decision to board the flotilla was not made lightly, nor was the decision to act in self defence against the participants.  Only after all other avenues were exhausted and all opportunity given to the flotilla to alter their course did Israel seek to take control of the boats. It is important to note that the boarding action was intended to be non-violent.  It is only when the naval officers were met with aggression, such as on the Mavi Marmara, were they forced to exercise self-defence.

Immediately upon boarding the Mavi Marmara, IDF officers were violently attacked with metal bars and knives. One Israeli officer had his weapon taken from him and had it used against him, another was savagely beaten and his body dumped over the side of the ship.  In was in light of these circumstances – the imminent threat of serious injury and death to themselves and their comrades – that the officers acted in self-defence. Amongst the participants were members of the IHH, a Turkish organisation with links the terror activities of al-Qaeda. That they were carrying weapons on board, what was ostensibly a humanitarian ship shows a pre-meditated desire for provocation and instigation.

Dozens of organisations including the UNRWA work effectively and efficiently with Israel in order to provide a secure and timely flow aid into the Gaza Strip. Israel allows transfers of over 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies into the Gaza strip on a weekly basis. Despite aid being only the secondary intention of the flotilla any humanitarian aid aboard the flotilla will be off-loaded in Ashdod and will be transferred overland to Gaza in accordance with standard operating procedures.

Israel continues, and will always continue, to work towards a peaceful solution to all people in the region. The search for partners in the peace process is still ongoing. While this week’s events serve as a tragic reminder of what happens when the intention of extremist groups is to inflame tension,  Israel will not allow it to derail the process.

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