In a message from the Freedom Flotilla III, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) demanded that the IDF end its blockade of Gaza and allow ships associated with the flotilla to arrive in Gaza. In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ghattas “hereby asks that the security forces be instructed to allow the ships to pass without damage, as this is a humanitarian voyage.”
The ships departed Greece over the weekend and are on their way to Gaza, while Israeli Navy ships tightened their blockade of the waters off Gaza. Israel has maintained the blockade since 2009, in order to prevent Hamas from smuggling large amounts of weapons for use against civilians. Ghattas announced last week that he was joining the new attempt by radical Hamas supporters to break the blockade. Some 70 Hamas supporters are said to be aboard the ships.
In his message, Ghattas said the ship he was on, the Marian, had about 20 passengers, “all of them on a humanitarian mission,” he wrote. “They are all peace activists, among them Moncef Marzouki, former president of Tunisia. Their only purpose is to protest the illegal blockade of Gaza.”
Speaking last week, Ghattas said that his participation in the flotilla was “not meant to challenge Israel's sovereignty. Israel does not have sovereignty over the waters off Gaza. This is not an issue of power politics or of politics at all. I am going to Gaza, not against the State of Israel. As an elected official of the State, I see it as my job to take responsibility for an issue like this.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, Ghattas wrote that the flotilla was “a civilian attempt to break the blockade of Gaza. This is a flotilla of peace which seeks to draw attention to the difficult situation of 1.8 million Palestinians, who live in an open-air prison under horrendous conditions, the result of the land, sea, and air blockade put up by Israel. This is nothing but a collective punishment, and a gross violation of human rights,” he wrote.
In his letter, Ghattas warned Netanyahu against trying to use the Israeli Navy to take control of the flotilla's ships. “Any action of that type will further embroil Israel in controversy and strengthen the international crisis, with the Prime Minister and his government taking full responsibility for the outcome.”
Another Arab MK, Hanin Zouabi, participated in the infamous 2010 flotilla attack, in which terrorists aboard the Mavi Marmara attempted to kill IDF soldiers. Zoabi has said she doesn't regret taking part in the flotilla, which attempted to illegally break the IDF's blockade on the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza.
In the 2010 flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel – only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars. Nine Islamist terrorists were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who boarded the ship, and in 2013 an Israeli court rejected a petition by former MK Michael Ben-Ari and Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir to try Zouabi for sedition for taking part in the flotilla.
The wounded soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of ten of the IHH members on board.
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid – in fact, no aid supplies at all.
Speaking earlier Sunday, MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said he was convinced Israel will stop the 'Freedom Flotilla III' from approaching Gaza. He stated to Arutz Sheva that he advocated a two-pronged approach vis-a-vis Gaza. Just as important as stopping the flotilla, he said, was dealing with Ghattas. “His presence as part of the terror flotilla is negative, whether or not it is illegal – and it should be reviewed by the Attorney General [Yehuda Weinstein],” he said.