On July 11, Israel announced it was not interested in having the United Nations become involved as a mediator in its maritime border issues with Lebanon.
But when it comes to recruiting other countries to assist in the enforcement of its naval blockade of Gaza, or having international airlines deny entry to passengers destined to the occupied territories from flying, Israel is keen to have other countries help.
In 2010, Israel faced the worst kind of media exposure when its military raided the Mavi Marmara, shooting dead nine activists and wounding 40 others, evoking global condemnation and a beginning a tectonic shift in its relations with Turkey.
Rather than risking direct confrontation with activists taking part the recent Freedom Flotilla II, or the ”Flytilla” of activists who attempted to fly into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, Israel instead chose another strategy that has proven quite effective.
Anchoring the flotilla
In June, ten ships carrying some 200 activists from 20 countries were to take part in what came to be known as “the second Freedom Flotilla”, whose goal was to break through the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
Israel began its campaign to keep the vessels from reaching Gaza by warning journalists on June 26 they could be banned from entering the country for ten years if they travelled aboard the aid flotilla.
The Israeli government also said journalists could also have their equipment seized, in addition to other sanctions placed on them.
Jay Bushinsky from the Foreign Press Association in Israel questioned the constitutionality of the Israeli government’s warning, and said it could be overruled by Israeli courts. He told Al Jazeera: ”If the steps are taken, it will reflect an unwise policy and a losing proposition.”
Israel backtracked and retracted the warning.
The next day, June 27, activists aboard the Swedish ship Juliano reported their vessel had been sabotaged by divers. In a statement, they said, ”hostile divers had destroyed the propeller house and cut the propeller shaft”.
At approximately the same time, Israel escalated a media campaign that was geared towards demonising flotilla activists. According to Tel Aviv daily Yedioth Aharonoth, military sources said participants of the flotilla were planning to pour chemicals, such as sulphur, on Israeli soldiers, and senior Israeli officials claimed that ”radical elements” among the flotilla activists had stated an intention to ”spill the blood of Israeli soldiers”.
Then on June 30, three days after the Juliano was sabotaged, the Irish ship Saoirse had to abandon plans to set sail, because of what it called Israeli sabotage. Activist Huwaida Arraf told Israel’s Army Radio that the ship’s engine was damaged while in port and could have led to deaths on board.
“When the engine was started, it completely bent,” Arraf said. “While out at sea, if this would have happened, if it would have bent in this way, the boat would have started taking on water and it could have led to fatalities.”
The alleged sabotage occurred at the Turkish coastal town of Gocek where the Saoirse has been berthed for the previous few weeks, according to organisers.
Israel refused media requests for comment on both allegations.