Israel drops threat of ban to journalists covering Gaza flotilla

Source: JTA, 6-27-11

Israel has dropped the threat of a ban against journalists who participate in the Gaza flotilla.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered Israeli authorities to formulate a special procedure for journalists who are arrested on board the flotilla, which is trying to evade the country’s maritime blockade of the coastal strip.

The order came a day after the head of Israel’s Government Press Office had threatened to deny entry to the country for 10 years to any journalist who participates in the flotilla.

Netanyahu said in a statement that the policy for journalists covering the flotilla should not be the same as against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally.

Members of the Israeli media and international journalists will be embedded in Israeli Navy vessels in contact with the flotilla “in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events,” said a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Foreign Press Association, which had criticized the threats made to journalists, applauded Israel’s decision.

“We are pleased to see that Israel has recognized the value of allowing reporters to cover an important news event and understands that journalists should be treated differently from political activists,” the association said Monday in a statement. “We urge the government to continue to do its utmost to promote freedom of the press as core values of a democratic society.”…READ MORE

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Hamas confirms: We refused Shalit deal

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF


Hamas confirms: We refused Shalit deal

Hamas’s Abu Marzouk told “Al Hayat” that Hamas rejected the offer by the German mediator.

After repeated denials, Hamas today confirmed that it received an offer via the German mediator in negotiations on deal to bring about the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit. Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk told Arabic newspaper “Al Hayat”, which is published in London, that it rejected the offer as “unfair”. Abu Marzouk is based in Damascus.

Abu Marzouk said that the mediator had accepted Israel’s position, which he called “extreme and unfair”.

“The extremism of the Netanyahu government is to be expected from an extreme right-wing government, but the fact that the German mediator has adopted this position – that is unacceptable,” Abu Marzouk to “Al Hayat”. “There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission. We all expected that he would present a fair and not extreme position. But instead of trying to reduce the demands of the Israeli government, he accepted its terms.”

“The matter was recently handed over to Egypt to deal with it,” said Abu Marzouk. “Hamas wants the deal to succeed, and obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners, but only in the framework of a national and honorable deal.”

“Al Hayat” quotes a senior Egyptian source, who called on Israel to demonstrate “a positive position on an exchange of prisoners”. The source, who is a party to the negotiations, blamed the Israeli government for the lack of a deal, saying, “If the Israelis really want Shalit to be freed and to receive him as part of an exchange with Hamas, they must cooperate positively and demonstrate sufficient flexibility for talks to be held.”

Commenting on the recent talks by Netanyahu advisor Yitzhak Molcho with Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Director Murad Mawafi, the Egyptian source said, “The talks dealt with a number of issues in Israeli-Egyptian relations. We told him that if Israel really wanted Shalit’s release, it had to offer acceptable positions.”

Abu Marzouk’s remarks to “Al Hayat” highlight the conflicting versions of events issued by Hamas’s leaders in the past few days about the Shalit negotiations. Yesterday, an official statement by Hamas in Gaza said that it had not rejected the offer by the German mediator. Commenting on Netanyahu’s opening remarks at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Hamas said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu is lying”.

Jerusalem says that the internal dispute in Hamas, mainly over the Shalit negotiations, is the main obstacle to striking a deal.

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