Pre-talk pessimism

As Iran’s enigmatic-by-necessity former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mosavian [now living in the U.S. after being jailed in Iran for his contacts abroad] has written, here [see previous articles,], the six-country talks with Iran about its nuclear program that are scheduled to take place this weekend in Istanbul are the first time in nine years that there may be any chance of breakthrough.

And, as Mousavian also noted, these talks also offer a chance for the US and Iran “to begin a serious dialogue to resolve more than three decades of hostilities, mistrust, and tension”.

But, many are voicing pessimism.

The U.S., Russia, China, France, and the U.K. — the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, who also happen to be, by the terms of the NPT Treaty, the world’s only legitimate nuclear powers — plus Germany, are all to meet this weekend with Iranian negotiators to discuss their high level of concern about Iranian nuclear intentions. The last P5+1 meeting with Iran was also in Istanbul, in January 2011.

Since then, there has been a constant stream of speculation about whether or not Israel will launch a military strike on Iran to stop any possible progress towards a nuclear weapon.

But, in the past week, a high ranking Israeli military official and a noted Iranian member of Parliament have both said that Iran already does have the capability, or the ability, to put together a nuclear warhead.

Cyrus Safdari has written a post on April 9 entitled “Why Iran nuclear talks will fail…again” on his Iran Affairs blog, here, that “There is a pattern here that just can’t be ignored, of the US deliberately raising the bar, moving goalposts, and imposing demandst that it knows will be rejected by Iran. The point, you see, is not to actually engage Iran in any sort of substantive dialog, but to give the US an opportunity to say ‘Hey we tried diplomacy and the Iranians ruined it’. So, as usuall, we have the US imposing demands on Iran even before any negotiations start, with no prospect that the US can ever provide anything in return as a quid-pro-quo. In fact, as I had explained before, the Obama administration is simply not ABLE to give anything back to Iran since US sanctions are imposed mainly by Congress, and Congress isn’t about to lift any sanctions in return for Iranian agreements to give up any part of their nuclear program. So, there will be some dickering in the media as usual but eventually the negotiations will fail and the US/Israeli will naturally blame Iran…So don’t hold your breath, these talks will also ‘fail’. The entire nuclear issue is, after all, just a pretext”.

In his previous post, here, Safdari wrote even if Iran were to agree to, say, a suspension or freeze [or even to a complete capitulation], “any move by Iran which actually reaches a compromise deal with the US as being merely a ‘tactical and temporary’ delay in Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons. This is what the hawks will call any deal that is reached with Iran, if one is ever reached: a plot by the Iranians to ‘sow dissension’ in those opposed to them, so as to ‘buy time’ to make bombs”.

Trita Parsi, in a piece in the Huffington Post that Cyrus Safdari has criticized in his latest [April 9] post, wrote that “there are some indications that the next round of talks may differ little from previous failed discussions. Driven by limited political maneuverability at home, domestic pressure not to compromise, and a perception of strength that lures the parties to believe they can force on the other a fait accompli, the talks have often been about imposing terms of capitulation on the other. It has never succeeded”.

Continue reading Pre-talk pessimism

Former IDF Chief of Staff says "We're sorry" – just hours before release of UN report on Mavi Marmara deaths

Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz [Haloutz] said today: “We are sorry people were killed during the operation, very sorry“. He was speaking about the Israeli naval interception of the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean on 30 May 2012, at a briefing for journalists organized at rather short notice today at the Mishkenot Shaananim center in Jerusalem.

Is that an unofficial/official apology?

Halutz added: “I believe there were some innocent ones among those nine, but…that mission was not so innocent”.

Halutz told the journalists at the press briefing that the “The word apology is too strong…because Israel was doing a legal action to prevent [a violation] of the siege we imposed”. And, Haloutz added: “Our soldiers were under a live threat”.

Yes, it looks like Haloutz had already been briefed about what was in the UN report, and yes, it sure looks like an attempt at a finessed Israeli apology.

Halutz was IDF Chief of Staff from 2005-2007, and was previously commander of the Israeli Air Force, and he said today
that he made many trips to Turkey in his professional capacity. But, Halutz is now retired from active military service, having been severely criticized for Israel’s military performance during the Second Lebanon War — and dabbled in business before joining, just eight months ago, the opposition Kadima party led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni [who ran a hard-fought campaign against the current Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in the last Israeli general elections in February 2009, and she continues to be very critical of Netanyahu’s conduct of office].

Halutz’s profile is perfect for making an unofficial [yet somehow official] apology.

The timing and purpose of the press briefing would otherwise seem…vague. He appeared at the press briefing in the company of a professional Public Relations man.

After his meeting with journalists, Haloutz smoked a quick cigarette in the sunshine outside, then turned and quickly bounded up three flights of stone stairs, taking the whole rise two steps at a time. The PR man, also in as good [military-grade] shape, followed one step behind.

A few hours later, the New York Times posted a leaked, advance copy of the “Final” Report commissioned by the UN Secretary-General on how to avoid a repetition of the mayhem and deaths that occurred during the Israeli naval interception on the high seas of a Freedom Flotilla aiming to break the Israeli siege on Gaza. During the pre-dawn Israeli raid on the 600-passenger Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, nine Turkish men [including one Turkish-American high school student] were shot to death.

The UN Report states that all nine appeared to have been unarmed.

The UN report, which the NYTimes posted on its website today here, says that “The events of 31 May 2010 should never have taken place as they did”.

It also says that “The incident and its outcomes were not intended by either Turkey or Israel … But more could have been done to warn the flotilla participants of the potential risks involved and to dissuade them from their actions”.

Continue reading Former IDF Chief of Staff says "We're sorry" – just hours before release of UN report on Mavi Marmara deaths

UN Security Council unanimous resolution on Libya

In the UN Security Council meeting on Libya on Saturday (26 Feb.) the French put their foot down,  and insisted that the violence being carried out by loyalists and agents of the current regime in Libya against the people of Libya must be referred to the International Criminal Court.

UNSC resolution 1970 was adopted unanimously. It also freezes assets of Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi and his children, and imposes a travel ban on approximately 22 Libyans connected to Qaddhafi.

The full implications of this decision will only become clear through time…

Continue reading UN Security Council unanimous resolution on Libya

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak sentenced to two concurrent three-month prison terms for protesting Gaza sanctions + Palestinian occupation

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack was sentenced today in a Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to serve two, concurrent, three-month prison terms for protesting the Israeli military-administered sanctions against Gaza and the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Pollak’s jail term is to start on 11 January.

An earlier three-month prison sentence was imposed on Pollak for protesting the construction of The Wall (or “separation barrier”) in the West Bank, was suspended.

Pollak second conviction was for his part in riding a bicycle in a “Critical Mass” protest in Tel Aviv on 31 January 2008 — just two days after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that it would allow a series of tightening Israeli military-administered sanctions against Gaza, imposed after the Israeli Government issued a declaration on 19 September 2007 [three months after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip] that Gaza was “hostile territory” or an “enemy entity”. A coalition of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups led by GISHA petitioned the Supreme Court against the imposition of the tightening sanctions. But, the Supreme Court ruled on 28 January 2008 that the military could go ahead with its plan, as long as it did not allow a “humanitarian crisis” to develop. [The concept of “humanitarian crisis” was not defined…]

Today, the Tel Aviv judge imposed a second three-month term and activated the first one, but ruled that Pollak would serve them simultaneously.

Pollak was the only one of thirty activists riding bicycles in the protest that day who was arrested — though his conviction was apparently on the grounds of “illegal assembly”.

A report sent by email said that “During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak’s arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions. The arrest and consequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak’s behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more sever obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment”.

The email also reported that Attorney Gaby Lasky, Pollak’s lawyer, noted: “The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”

In a statement made to the court just prior to sentencing passed, Pollak said:

    “Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offence. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legally vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.

    As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day’s events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza’s inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel’s control over the Palestinians.

    His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police’s conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists.

    The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.

    In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31st, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society’s privileged sons.

    I am not surprised by the Court’s decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person’s right to protest.

    Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.

    I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation”.

    Pollak, who has been active with Anarchists Against the Wall, is also a member of the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee. Information about the sentencing, and Pollak’s statement, was sent via email by fellow activist Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra).

Eid Mubarak

“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid – the three-day post-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr starts today for the world’s Muslims) is trending now on Twitter.

Ricky Martin and Paula Coelo have made multiple Eid Mubarak tweets.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held Eid prayers early this morning in his headquarters in the Muqata’a in Ramallah.

Hamas has released Fatah prisoners in Gaza, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has released Hamas-affiliated prisoners in the West Bank. However, Ma’an has just reported that “Hamas leader Nader Sawafta from Tubas was transferred to from a Palestinain Authority prison to Nablus’ Rafidia hospital in Nablus … [And] a Hamas party statement accused PA prison authorities of torturing a senior leader after [emphasis added] he was moved from a government prison to hospital on Thursday”. The Hamas statement added that “Sawafta’s health was deteriorating and [Hamas] held the PA responsible for his life”. This is posted here

Gaza was bombed last night for all those projectiles fired by various groups from the Strip during the month of Ramadan.

And the IDF has said that unspecified special arrangements are in place to assist Muslims to celebrate this important religious and social event, despite a total closure of the West Bank for four-days (until midnight Saturday) for the Jewish New Year holiday.

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazai also takes responsibility for Flotilla Fiasco

According to a report in Haaretz, the IDF Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi testified Wednesday, at the Turkel Commission investigating the “maritime incident” which occurred when Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara and five other ships sailing toward Gaza in a “Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May, that “the raid quickly became ‘chaotic’, and the soldiers had no choice but to ‘continue with the plan’ … From the moment the operation began, it was clear that the circumstances were unprecedented’, he said, adding that as commander he took full responsibility for the troops’ actions”.

Ashkenazi is the third high-ranking Israeli official to take responsibility for the Flotilla fiasco.  Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak also said the responsibility was theirs.

Haaretz also reported that “despite initial reports that military personnel would not testify before the Turkel committee, Ashkenazi has authorized Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit to testify before the panel.  Ashkenazi also approved the questioning of General (Res.) Giora Eiland, who headed the IDF’s internal inquiry into the deadly raid”.  This is reported in Haaretz here.

Continue reading IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazai also takes responsibility for Flotilla Fiasco

On withholding U.S. aid to the Lebanese Army, now

There is a silly and irritating — and also dangerous — debate going on about cutting off American military aid to the Lebanese Army in the wake of its firefight with IDF forces who insisted on going ahead with “routine maintenance” along the Blue Line separating the two country’s armies, despite advice and strong requests to the contrary.

This “routine maintenance” operation consisted of trimming a tree and/or shrubs in one of the enclaves along the Blue Line — an enclave that Lebanon, at least, says is contested [while Israel claims, bluntly and forcefully, “It’s ours“, and carries out patrolling and other “routine maintenance” operations to “show the flag” and assert its vision of sovereignty.

One could certainly question whether this “routine maintenance” was absolutely essential, on that day, for security reasons [to give the Israeli military a few more seconds advance notice of any potentially-hostile movement there], when Israel maintains a number of satellites in orbit carrying very high-resolution cameras that monitor all activities in the region in what is said to be very impressive detail. [Not to mention Israel’s surveillance of Lebanon — and other parts of the region — by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), see below]

On the very day of the firefight (3 August) a journalist asked the U.S. State Department spokesperson whether or not the Lebanese Army had used any of its U.S-provided material to attack the IDF “tree-trimmers”. [The IDF local commander on the spot was identified and killed by a Lebanese Army sniper, becoming the only Israeli casualty, though he was standing more than half a mile or some 80 meters away. Three Lebanese Army soldiers and one Lebanese journalist were killed in the firefight…]

Nobody [at least, not to my knowledge] has asked if the Israeli soliders were using U.S.-provided equipment.

Since then, momentum has gathered in the U.S. Congress to stop aid to the Lebanese Army.

I was struck by an email I received on Monday (9 August), containing a press release, which informed me that the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on future assistance to the Lebanese Army on 2 August — the day before the firefight. The email said that “Congressman Howard L. Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the hold he placed on future U.S. military assistance to Lebanon on August 2nd, 2010: ‘I have been concerned for sometime about reported Hizballah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and its implications for our military assistance program for Lebanon. For that reason, on August 2, I placed a hold on a $100 million dollar security assistance package to the LAF. The incident on the Israel-Lebanon border only one day after my hold was placed simply reinforces the critical need for the United States to conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military. I strongly condemn the unprovoked attacked by the Lebanese Army that resulted in the death of an Israeli officer. Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hizballah influence on the LAF — and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor — I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon”.

I have seen statements by other congressmen boasting of their actions — on 3 August, after the firefight — to support such a hold.

Today, Juan Cole has argued, on his Informed Comment blog, that “Withholding or blocking US military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, however, is a short-sighted policy that will harm US interests in the Middle East and will also have negative implications in the medium to long term for Israel. The allegation, which originates in propaganda offices in Israel, that the Lebanese armed forces have somehow been taken over by or infiltrated by Hizbullah is frankly ridiculous. The most powerful officers are Maronite Christians, and President Michel Sulaiman had been chief of staff before becoming president. Hint: Michel is not a Muslim name. Sulaiman proposed building up the armed forces in response to the border misunderstanding, and all the political factions in Lebanon– Christian, Sunni, Shiite and Druze, praised him for it. Again, this initiative is coming from the Christian leadership. Whether Hizbullah really wants the army of the central government strengthened is not clear, but they could hardly protest the shoring up of a national institution (despite being Shiite fundamentalists, Hizbullah has consistently supported a strong, united Lebanon and is among the foremost purely Lebanese nationalist forces in the country). The silly allegation about Hizbullah and the LAF is a smear, and derives from Tel Aviv’s unease with not being able to have its way with Lebanon at will. In particular, Israeli hawks have long coveted the water resources of south Lebanon, and don’t want a strong Lebanese army and state that would put an end to that expansionist dream … In contrast, if the US helps quietly build up the Lebanese armed forces, at some point they will naturally overshadow Hizbullah. It is not desirable that the army be positioned as anti-Hizbullah nor that it take on the militia militarily. But in the medium term, a strong army would just be able better to assert its prerogatives. And it is better if that army is close to NATO powers, not to Iran … Lebanon’s army collapsed in the mid-1970s in the face of the Civil War. In the 1990s after that war was ended by a new national pact brokered at the Saudi resort city of Taef, the army began being rebuilt. It had a rival in the south of the country in the form of the Hizbullah fundamentalist Shiite militia. The LAF was stunted by the Syrian occupation, which ended in 2005. It was a bystander in the 2006 war, though the Israelis killed some officers and struck at a barracks in Beirut and at facilities as far north as Tripoli (none of these Israeli strikes on the LAF had anything to do with Tel Aviv’s war on Hizbullah. There are no Shiites in Tripoli). Since the Likudniks are saying that the Israeli officer who unfortunately died in last week’s border incident was ‘executed’, one would like to know if the 49 Lebanese officers Israel killed in 2006 were also executed … The main role of the LAF is likely to remain internal. If you want al-Qaeda-type organizations like Fath al-Islam proliferating and Hizbullah becoming unchallenged and a general power vacuum that favors forces of disorder and terrorism, then cut off your nose to spite your face and deprive little Lebanon of its $100 million this year for its military”. This is posted here.

UPDATE: Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told journalists today that “Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money”, according to a report by Agence France Presse, here. The AFP story also reported that “An advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has also criticised the US decision” — and said that “support for the army was central to upholding Lebanon’s sovereignty”.

See our earlier posts — before this firefight — reporting on the U.S. State Department’s well-publicized but little-analyzed vaunting of America’s determination to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge [QME] in the region. This year, Israel is getting nearly $3 billion dollars in military assistance [but no civilian aid, according to Bank of Israel head Stanley Fischer], plus a contribution to Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense, and a few other odds and ends here and there…

Meanwhile, Haaretz correspondents Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury have published an analysis today of some of the more interesting statements made by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on Monday night that riveted much of the region. The Haaretz article says that “In his fifth speech in less than three weeks, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah tried to blame the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on Israel. Nasrallah said at a Beirut news conference on Monday evening that Israel had masterminded the murder in order to get Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. He said he was prepared to hand over the proof to an independent inquiry … He also showed a picture of an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle that was ostensibly documenting the surroundings of Hariri’s home in a Beirut suburb and a number of central government institutions in the city. Nasrallah also displayed video clips which he claimed had been filmed by Israeli UAVs that kept an eye on the road leading to Hariri’s brother’s house in Sidon, as well as documentation of Israeli air movements near the Lebanese coast on the day of Hariri’s assassination … Turning to the Israeli naval commando disaster [in 1997], he said that Hezbollah had several times intercepted in real-time pictures broadcast by an UAV to Israel that showed the area of the action. This indicated to the organization that Israel planned to take action there, and therefore Hezbollah set up ambushes there that attacked the commandos. Hezbollah waited for the commandos for several weeks there, he added. This information is not new since it was published in Maariv in 2007 by Amir Rapaport. During the news conference, Nasrallah showed two video clips which he said were connected with the incident. The first was from before the incident – this was supposedly the one from which Hezbollah understood that Israel was planning action there – and the second purportedly showed Israeli fighters boarding a plane on the day of the 1977 naval commando raid. However, there was no documentation of the bombing or the raid itself. Nasrallah added that since then Israel has learned to encrypt UAV broadcasts”… This Haaretz follow-up report can be read in full here.

More on Flotilla fiasco from Netanyahu and from Ehud Barak

Barak Ravid wrote in Haaretz about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s testimony before Israel’s non-IDF commission of inquiry into the Flotilla fiasco that Netanyahu yesterday called a “maritime incident” that: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed visibly unprepared for his public testimony before the Turkel Committee yesterday – hesitating over key details, evading questions and finally [later] publishing three statements clarifying and even denying what he had said just hours earlier … [The committee is headed by former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel.] But while his [Netanyahu’s] opening address, in which he enumerated Hamas’ crimes and Israel’s attempts to persuade the Turkish government to stop the flotilla, went smoothly, the subsequent questions – on issues such as the government’s decision-making process, Israel’s intelligence on the flotilla and Netanyahu’s personal responsibility for the incident – showed no evidence of these preparations. He refused to answer six questions entirely, saying he would do so only at a closed hearing.  And he said he didn’t know the answers to many other questions – such as how much humanitarian aid was entering Gaza before the raid.   But the Turkel Committee’s spokesman, Ofer Leffler, said Netanyahu did answer all six questions in his subsequent closed-door testimony, and had promised to respond in writing to those to which he did not know the answers yesterday”.

Ravid wrote that when asked who decided on the raid, “Netanyahu replied that it was the Israel Defense Forces’ decision”…

Continue reading More on Flotilla fiasco from Netanyahu and from Ehud Barak

Netanyahu tells Israeli commission that naval blockade of Gaza will continue

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said Monday to Turkel Commission investigating what Netanyahu called the “maritime incident” that occurred when Israeli naval forces boarded the Freedom Flotilla at sea on 31 May that “As part of the effort to prevent the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip, my government has continued the naval blockade that was imposed by the previous government during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in January of 2009 as well as continuing the limitations and oversight on the movement of goods at land crossings that was put in place in September 2007 … Our policy, therefore, is intended to maintain the naval blockade which supports the security blockade”.

Netanyahu, who was the first person to testify at the first official session of the Turkel Commission, promised that “During the closed forum [a future event with restricted or no media coverage], I will expand on my statement and explain why none of our diplomatic efforts would have prevented the Marmara’s desire to try to break the blockade”.

The Israeli Prime Minister did note, in today’s statement, that “Given the lack of effective pressure by the Turkish government and the lack of any desire on the part of the flotilla organizers to redirect their ships to alternative ports, none of the diplomatic efforts were effective:
•We tried to prevent the launch of the flotilla at the diplomatic and security levels. We did not succeed.
•We suggested transferring the goods through the Ashdod and El-Arish ports. We did not succeed.
•We held continuous contacts vis-à-vis and with the most senior levels of the Turkish government. We did not succeed” …

Netanyahu pinned this list of Israeli failures on Turkey’s unsuccessful effort [with Brazil] to help work out a deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program: “I must point out that on the 17th of that month [May], the Turkish prime minister met with Iranian president Ahmadinejad and with the Brazilian president to make a joint statement regarding an Iranian nuclear that was opposed by the United States and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Turkey thereby strengthened its identification and cooperation with Iran just days before the flotilla”.

Continue reading Netanyahu tells Israeli commission that naval blockade of Gaza will continue

The Libyan-chartered ship has problems off Egyptian coast

A Libyan-chartered Greek ship flying the Moldovan flag and carrying 2,000 tons of food and medical supplies destined for Gaza has reportedly developed mechanical problems [in the engine? with communications devices?] overnight as it approached its declared destination of the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

Israeli warships are reportedly tracking the Amalthea. The Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak earlier called this expedition “provocative”. Israeli military officials say that the cargo this ship is carrying is redundant, because these materials are now entering Gaza relatively freely via Israeli-controlled crossings. However, there are still logistical limitations.

Although Israeli officials continue to be suspicious about the ship — and there have been contradictory claims about the intended destination coming from various people involved with the Libyan aid group that hired the ship and from some of their supporters — they say that as things appear at the moment there does not appear to be any security threat involved. However, they say, they are watching, and will be taking no chances.

The Amalthea appears to have turned off its transponder in recent hours… Or, according to some reports, the ship’s communications are being jammed, and the ship is surrounded by 8 Israeli warships.

Continue reading The Libyan-chartered ship has problems off Egyptian coast