Israel Political Brief April 23, 2013: Israeli lawmakers slam US Secretary of State John Kerry for Boston Marathon-Mavi Marmara comparison

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Israeli pols slam Kerry for marathon-Mavi Marmara comparison

Source: JTA, 4-23-13

Israeli lawmakers are condemning U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s comparison of the Boston Marathon bombing victims to the 2010 deaths of Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara ship….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 22, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu apologizes for ‘tragic’ Gaza flotilla raid as Israel resumes relations with Turkey

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Netanyahu apologizes for ‘tragic’ Gaza flotilla raid as Israel resumes relations with Turkey

Source: National Post, 3-22-13

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the breakthrough after a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 22, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

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PM Netanyahu Speaks with Turkish PM Erdogan

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today with Prime Minister Erdogan from Turkey.

PM Netanyahu told him he had just had good conversations with President Obama about regional cooperation and the importance of Israel-Turkey relations. He regretted the recent deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey and expressed his commitment to overcoming their differences in order to advance peace and stability in the region

PM Netanyahu said he had seen PM Erdogan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper and appreciated his words. He made clear that the tragic outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident was not intended by Israel and that Israel regrets the loss of human life and injury. In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the Prime Minister expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/nonliability.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into the Palestinian territories, including Gaza , and that this would continue as long as calm prevailed.

The two leaders agreed to continue to work to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו שוחח עם ראש ממשלת טורקיה ארדואן

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו שוחח היום עם ראש ממשלת טורקיה ארדואן. השניים סיכמו על השבת הנורמליזציה בין המדינות, כולל שליחת השגרירים בחזרה, וביטול ההליכים המשפטיים נגד חיילי צה”ל.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו אמר לראש הממשלה ארדואן שהיו לו שיחות טובות עם הנשיא אובמה בנושא שיתוף פעולה אזורי, וחשיבות יחסי ישראל טורקיה.

נתניהו הביע צער על ההידרדרות ביחסי ישראל-טורקיה, והביע את מחויבותו להסדרה של חילוקי הדעות במטרה לקדם שלום ויציבות באזור.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו אמר שהוא ראה את הראיון האחרון שהעניק ארדואן לעיתון דני, והביע הערכתו לדבריו. נתניהו הבהיר שהתוצאות הטרגיות של משט המאווי מרמרה לא היו מכוונות, וישראל מביעה צער על פגיעה ואובדן חיי אדם. לאור החקירה הישראלית של התקרית שהצביעה על מספר טעויות מבצעיות, הביע ראש הממשלה נתניהו התנצלות לעם הטורקי על כל טעות שיכלה להוביל לאובדן חיי אדם, והסכים להשלים את ההסכם על פיצויים.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו ציין גם שישראל הסירה כבר מספר מגבלות על תנועת אזרחים וסחורות לכל הטריטוריות הפלסטיניות, כולל עזה, והדבר יימשך כל עוד השקט יישמר. שני המנהיגים סיכמו להמשיך ולעבוד על מנת לשפר את המצב ההומניטארי בשטחים הפלסטינים.

Israel Political Brief February 24, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting apology to Turkey for now

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Netanyahu rejecting apology to Turkey for now

Source: JTA, 2-24-13

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for now has rejected a bid to apologize to Turkey for a fatal raid on a 2010 Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief October 24, 2012: Israel deports Estelle Boat Gaza activists

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Israel deports Estelle activists

Source: JTA, 10-24-12

Israel deported 15 international activists who were arrested after their ship, the Estelle, attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief October 21, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu lauds Israeli military in stopping bid to break Gaza blockade

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Bibi lauds Israeli military in stopping bid to break Gaza blockade

Source: JTA, 10-21-12

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Israeli military’s operation to seize a ship attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2012: Israel goes to UN in effort to halt Gaza-bound ship

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Israel goes to U.N. in effort to halt Gaza-bound ship

Source: JTA, 10-18-12

Israel asked the United Nations to stop a Swedish-owned ship carrying human rights activists from attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza….READ MORE

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon: Israel minister rules out flotilla apology to Turkey

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Source: AFP, 7-21-11

Israel will not “take responsibility” for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals by apologising to Ankara over its botched 2010 raid on a ferry heading for Gaza, a senior cabinet minister said on Thursday.

“We are not ready to apologise, as apologising is taking responsibility,” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Jerusalem.

“There is no room in my mind for any kind of apology that means taking responsibility,” he said of the pre-dawn raid on a six-vessel flotilla that attempted to sail to Gaza in May 2010 in a bid to break Israel’s naval embargo.

Yaalon’s comments come after several failed attempts by Israel and Turkey to patch up ties that frayed almost to breaking point after commandos stormed the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry that was leading the flotilla.

He said Turkish representatives continued to insist that relations could only be restored if Israel apologised for the raid, compensated the families of those killed and the injured, and lifted its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We tried very hard to bridge the gap … (but) as long as they insist on this position I can’t see any agreement between the two sides,” he said.

“We are ready to regret the loss of lives, we are ready to create a kind of humanitarian voluntary fund,” he said, explaining that if such a fund were set up by Ankara, Israel would be prepared to pay money into it.

But he said there would be no official apology nor direct compensation offered to the families of those killed and the injured.

“A voluntary fund is acceptable, but compensation … means that you are responsible.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has repeatedly said the Jewish state will not apologise for the raid, although privately officials acknowledge that upgrading relations with Ankara would be desirable.

Media reports suggest there is increasing pressure on both sides for a final agreement that would restore once-strong ties between the two countries…. READ MORE

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Israel Political Brief July 21, 2011: Flotilla activists sent packing from Israel

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Source: JTA, 7-21-11

The activists aboard the lone Gaza-bound flotilla ship intercepted by Israel were deported.

Some 15 activists, journalists and crew members were deported throughout the day Wednesday, a day after the French-flagged Dignity al-Karama was boarded by Israeli commandos near Gaza waters and towed to Israel’s Ashdod port. One activist was an Israeli journalist and was not deported.

The ship reportedly had declared a port in Egypt as its final destination in order to be able to leave Greek waters. At least seven other flotilla ships were detained and remain in Greek ports for safety violations.

The Dignity was carrying about 10 French and Greek activists, as well as three journalists and three crew members.

After boarding the ship, Israeli troops checked the condition of the passengers and offered them food and drink, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The passengers were turned over to officials from the Israel Police, the Immigration and Population Authority and the Interior Ministry. They could be denied entrance to Israel for the next 10 years because they are being deported.

Israel Political Brief July 21, 2011: Israel minister rules out flotilla apology to Turkey

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Source: AFP, 7-21-11

Israel will not “take responsibility” for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals by apologising to Ankara over its botched 2010 raid on a ferry heading for Gaza, a senior cabinet minister said on Thursday.

“We are not ready to apologise, as apologising is taking responsibility,” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Jerusalem.

“There is no room in my mind for any kind of apology that means taking responsibility,” he said of the pre-dawn raid on a six-vessel flotilla that attempted to sail to Gaza in May 2010 in a bid to break Israel’s naval embargo.

Yaalon’s comments come after several failed attempts by Israel and Turkey to patch up ties that frayed almost to breaking point after commandos stormed the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry that was leading the flotilla.

He said Turkish representatives continued to insist that relations could only be restored if Israel apologised for the raid, compensated the families of those killed and the injured, and lifted its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We tried very hard to bridge the gap … (but) as long as they insist on this position I can’t see any agreement between the two sides,” he said.

“We are ready to regret the loss of lives, we are ready to create a kind of humanitarian voluntary fund,” he said, explaining that if such a fund were set up by Ankara, Israel would be prepared to pay money into it.

But he said there would be no official apology nor direct compensation offered to the families of those killed and the injured.

“A voluntary fund is acceptable, but compensation … means that you are responsible.”…READ MORE

Israel deporting 15 foreigners aboard Gaza-bound boat

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Source: CNN, 7-20-11

Dignite enters the Israeli port of Ashdod flanked by Israeli naval vessels after being intercepted in international waters
Dignite enters the Israeli port of Ashdod flanked by Israeli naval vessels after being intercepted in international waters
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • “Some of them have already left,” official says
  • The Dignite was carrying 10 activists, three crew members and three journalists
  • One of the journalists is Israeli

Fifteen foreigners aboard the Gaza-bound boat Dignite were being deported out of Israel on Wednesday, Israeli officials said.

“Some of them have already left this morning and the rest will fly out during the day,” said Sabin Hadad, spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry.

The Dignite — carrying 10 activists, three crew members and three journalists — is affiliated with the Free Gaza Movement.

One of the journalists is Israeli.

Israeli naval forces Tuesday successfully took over the boat, which was intent on breaking what the activists call the “siege of Gaza,” without violent resistance.

The forces “operated in line with procedures and took every precaution necessary while using all operational tactics determined prior to the operation, and avoid causing harm to the activists on board while ensuring the safety of the soldiers,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

After the boarding, “the passengers’ health was examined and they were offered food and beverages.”…READ MORE

Israel Defense Forces’ Navy Intercepts, Boards French Flotilla Yacht Bound for Gaza

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The Israeli boarding came “after all diplomatic channels had been exhausted”

On Tuesday, July 18, IDF soldiers boarded a French yacht heading to the Gaza Strip, in order to ensure it did not break Gaza’s maritime security blockade.

The yacht – the MV Dignite/Al Karama – was intercepted by Israel before being towed to shore in what is being described as an “uneventful takeover”.

The Israeli boarding of the vessel by IDF navy soldiers came after “after all diplomatic channels had been exhausted and continuous calls to the vessel had been ignored,”  according to a military statement. The yacht’s16 passengers were offered food, drink and medical exams.

Prior to intercepting the yacht, four Israeli military boats flanked the vessel and warned its crew not to attempt to breach the sea blockade off Gaza.

The yacht left the Greek island of Kastellorizo on Saturday evening after Athens imposed a ban on the departure of any ships involved in the flotilla. Early on Tuesday, activists on board tweeted via @BateauGazaFr that they were still determined to reach Gaza.

Israel insists the Gaza blockade is both legal and vital in ensuring that the terrorist organization, Hamas, does not gain access to incoming funds and/or weapons that would be used to attack Israel.

Israeli navy takes over Gaza-bound ship

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Source: AP, 7-19-11

Israeli naval commandos on Tuesday seized control of a French ship attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, reporting no resistance during the takeover in international waters.

The navy boarded the ship after the pro-Palestinian activists on board ignored calls to change course.

The military had warned it would stop any attempt to break the sea blockade of Gaza, which Israel imposed four years ago in what it says is a measure to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group.

It said the vessel, the Dignity al-Karama, would be taken to a southern Israeli port, Ashdod. The international passengers are likely to face deportation….READ MORE

Israeli President Shimon Peres thanks Greek president for stopping flotilla

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Source: JTA, 7-11-11

Israeli President Shimon Peres thanked his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, for his country’s help in stopping a flotilla bound for Gaza.

Peres hosted Papoulias on Monday in Jerusalem for a reception and a working meeting.

“I genuinely thank you for fulfilling the directives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations by stopping the flotilla,”  Peres told Papoulias. “I thank you for not allowing people interested in violating the law and disrupting order to reach Gaza, which is ruled by a terror organization.

“Greece, in an impressive manner, showed the U.N. that she stands ready to assist. Your contribution to lower tensions benefits the entire region as well as Gaza itself.  You acted legally and carefully, and I thank you for your personal involvement in this matter.”

Peres called the Greek president’s visit “the start of the opening of a new chapter in Greece-Israel relations. Both of our nations share an ancient past, and I believe we share a great future.”

He also thanked the country for sending firefighting planes and firefighters to help in extinguishing last year’s Carmel forest fire.

During their meeting the two leaders discussed strengthening relations between Greece and Israel in a number of areas, particularly diplomatic and trade relations, Peres’ office told journalists.

Greece Halts Gaza Flotilla Bound to Israel

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Greece puts halt to Gaza flotilla in a win for Israel

Source: CS Monitor, 7-1-11

The Greek coastguard escorted a US boat seeking to join the Gaza flotilla back to port and said it will stop all other attempted departures. It looks like a big diplomatic victory for Benjamin Netanyahu.

A pro-Palestinian activist plays a trumpet as others hold banners on their boat named ‘Audacity of Hope’ moored in Perama, near Athens Thursday.

Darko Bandic/AP

A boat carrying a contingent of US activists seeking to join a flotilla of protesters against Israel‘s blockade of the Gaza Strip were turned back by armed Greek commandos about 30 miles out of Athens today, in a major blow to the group and an apparent diplomatic victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US boat was carrying about 50 Americans, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. As of the late evening in Greece, the boat was being detained at a Greek coastguard port….READ MORE

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Israel Advocacy Group Forces Delay in Gaza-Bound Flotilla

Source: NYT, 6-28-11

The departure of a pro-Palestinian flotilla of international ships with plans to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza has been delayed, in large part due to the efforts of an Israeli advocacy group, both sides said Tuesday.

Greek authorities have held two of the ships docked here in recent days, including an American vessel, after the Israeli advocacy group, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, filed a complaint to the Greek coast guard suggesting that seven of the ships might be lacking insurance or improperly registered.

Ten ships are slated to head toward Gaza this week, in a challenge to Israel’s naval embargo of the Palestinian coastal strip governed by Hamas, the militant group that opposes Israel’s right to exist. All the vessels are insured and have been certified as seaworthy, said Adam Shapiro, a coordinator and spokesman for the flotilla….READ MORE

Activists, Israeli Navy prepare for flotilla bound for Gaza

Source: JTA, 6-28-11

Israel’s Navy is preparing to intercept the pro-Palestinian flotilla due to set sail for the Gaza Strip from Mediterranean ports later this week.

Commandos from the Israeli Navy’s elite Shayetet 13 unit have spent weeks preparing to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza, including practicing new ways to quickly board the ships’ upper decks and how to use water cannons and other non-lethal riot control methods.

The Navy wants to avoid a repeat of  the violence that occurred when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in last year’s flotilla to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in clashes with the commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

This year’s flotilla activists, whose stated goal is to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Hamas-run coastal strip, have attended workshops on the use of passive resistance tactics. The activists also have been trained to transmit information from the ships until the last minute and keep video chips hidden from boarding Israeli soldiers, according to a blog post by flotilla participant Medea Benjamin.

Unnamed Israeli officials told Israeli media outlets that some flotilla participants hope to kill Israeli soldiers and are planning to bring aboard bags of the chemical sulfur to pour it on soldiers as they attempt to board the ships. Israeli officials have identified at least two participants in the flotilla as having ties to Hamas.

However, a flotilla organizer, Israeli expatriate Dror Feiler, told journalists that flotilla participants have signed a declaration of nonviolence. Feiler said that dangerous chemicals would not be allowed on board flotilla vessels.

“If Israel suspects anyone, it should provide us with information so we can stop him,” he told Israel Army Radio Tuesday morning. “Violent people are not permitted to take part in the flotilla.”

The flotilla is expected to be a smaller version of last year’s, with some 10 ships, including two cargo ships, carrying about 500 activists reportedly set to take part, instead of the at least 15 ships carrying thousands of activists originally planned.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Islamic charity IHH, which helped organize last year’s flotilla with the Free Gaza Movement, withdrew the participation of the Mavi Marmara in this year’s flotilla. The IHH, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the European Union, said the ship did not gain necessary approval from Turkish port authorities for technical reasons.

The flotilla ran into further problems this week.

The departure date of flotilla ships from Greek ports was pushed off from the originally scheduled Tuesday launch due to a nationwide strike. Meanwhile, one ship’s propeller was cut off in what flotilla organizers are calling sabotage….READ MORE

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

John Baird: Shun Gaza flotilla participation, Canadian foreign minister urges

Source: JTA, 5-30-11

Canada’s foreign minister has “strongly” urged against Canadian involvement in an international aid flotilla slated to leave for the Gaza Strip in late June.

John Baird called the planned aid flotilla “provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza.”

“I strongly urge those wishing to deliver humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip to do so through established channels,” Baird said in a statement issued May 28.

Baird’s warning comes amid reports that an umbrella group representing about 100 Canadian organizations says it is planning to send a Canadian boat,  named the Tahrir, to the Gaza Strip as part of the second international Freedom Flotilla.

The foreign minister’s words come nearly a year after Israeli Navy commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of an international aid flotilla bound for Gaza, killing nine Turkish activists and drawing worldwide condemnation.

This time, the flotilla is to comprise some 15 ships from several countries.

Baird said Canada “recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.”

A more “legitimate and constructive” way to help the people of Gaza, he suggested, is to donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

Baird added that “Canada continues to call for the immediate return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for almost five years, to his family in Israel.”

Israel’s cooperation on U.N. inquiry signals tactical shift

Source: JTA, 8-3-10

The decision by Israel to participate in the U.N. probe of the Turkish flotilla incident marks a stark departure from Jerusalem’s practice of opposing the world body’s investigations of Israeli actions.

A year-and-a-half ago, faced with a similar decision when the U.N. Human Rights Council decided to appoint a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel and Hamas’ actions during the Gaza war, Israel boycotted the inquiry led by retired South African judge Richard Goldstone. Israel would pay a heavy diplomatic price: The Goldstone report was harshly critical of Israel and generated months of negative publicity for the Jewish state.

A year later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking the opposite course with the U.N. review panel looking into the May 31 flotilla confrontation. Nine Turks, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in the melee that ensued when Israeli commandos tried to board the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla of ships sailing for Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s blockade of the strip. The incident drew worldwide condemnation of Israel.

“Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true,” Netanyahu said in a statement Monday. “It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world, and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

The U.N. inquiry out of New York will be led by a former prime minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, and will include the outgoing president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, as well as a Turkish and an Israeli representative who have yet to be named. The panel is expected to begin its work Aug. 10 and submit a progress report in mid-September…. READ MORE

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