attacks Gaza, Israeli Diplomats are Furiously Attempting to Halt the Gaza Freedom
While the Israeli military pounded Gaza in the past month, killing 14 Palestinians and wounding 52 -- including 19 children -- Israeli diplomats embarked on a massive political campaign to stop the next international flotilla to Gaza that will challenge Israel's naval blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza. In extensive meetings around the world, Israeli diplomats urged diplomats of European countries, Turkey, the United States and the United Nations to use their authority to stop the ships in the next flotilla to Gaza.
The second Gaza Freedom Flotilla is scheduled to sail in late May with more ships and more passengers than the May, 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla that the Israelis attacked killing 9 passengers and wounding 50. Twenty-two countries have national campaigns to join the second flotilla.
Israel approaches the United Nations
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on April 4 that, "Among other officials, senior Israeli diplomats have initiated discussions with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to persuade him to take steps to prevent the departure of the flotilla." Netanyahu said that organizers of the flotilla include "extremist Islamic elements whose aim is to create a provocation and bring about a conflagration."
In response to Netanyahu's allegations, Jane Hirschmann and Richard Levy released a joint statement for the U.S. boat, named "The Audacity of Hope"...
"Nothing could be further from the truth. We are appalled by this flagrant misrepresentation. The organizers and passengers of the U.S. boat -- a committed, nonviolent, human rights mission sailing as part of the International Flotilla -- are people from all walks of life, among them lawyers, social workers, artists, firefighters, midwives, writers, doctors, filmmakers, retired U.S. army personnel, veterans, women's rights organizers, teachers and nurses.
"The flotilla is not the problem. Israel's conduct in Palestine is the problem. Israel's occupation of the West Bank, siege of Gaza, expansion of settlements, destruction of homes, usurpation of water and air rights, walls of confinement, brutal military presence, and daily sniper attacks on innocent civilians constitute the paramount violence and terrorism in the Mideast -- conduct that we all abhor."
The U.S.-flagged "The Audacity of Hope" will be among many boats in the second International Freedom Flotilla, which its organizers said "will sail in peace and with a single nonviolent message, i.e., that the people of Gaza are entitled to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that are the rights of every human being."
Netanyahu talks with European Union Ambassadors
On April 11, 2011 at a luncheon he hosted in Jerusalem for European Union Ambassadors, Netanyahu told ambassadors from European countries "This flotilla must be stopped," and urged Europe governments to prevent their citizens from taking part in the flotilla.
Netanyahu told the ambassadors that stopping the flotilla was a "common interest" for Israel and Europe. "We are aware that there is an attempted provocation in May, possibly early June of another so-called flotilla, not a peace flotilla but a provocation, a deliberate provocation to seek to ignite this part of the Middle East."
During Netanyahu's meeting, EU ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley expressed the bloc's concern "at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process."
Organizers from the Free Gaza movement said on their website,
"If Israeli authorities thought that their attack on Freedom Flotilla 1 last year would break our momentum and scare us away from sailing to Gaza again, they were wrong. We are now organizing Freedom Flotilla 2, scheduled to set sail in late May 2011, with twice as many vessels as we had last year."
Special Israeli Appeal to Turkey to "Thwart the Gaza Flotilla"
On April 14, in an article titled "Israel to Turkey: Help us thwart upcoming Gaza flotilla," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that "Israel's ambassador to Turkey reiterated Jerusalem's opposition to the naval 'provocation,' and said that Israel would allow the passing of humanitarian aid to Gaza through other channels."
The article noted that, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on April 12, Israeli ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy said the Israeli government had conducted talks with the Turkish government in an attempt to thwart the planned flotilla, saying that Israel had passed on the message that the flotilla was a "provocation" and must be stopped. The Israeli ambassador also met the general director of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, where he repeated the same message in person.