Minister Herzog: Time to lift Gaza siege
Prime Minister Netanyahu tells cabinet that group which attacked IDF soldiers aboard Turkish-owned ship 'boarded ship separately, underwent completely different security checks than other passengers.' Minister Braverman says Israel should cooperate with international investigation
Netanyahu argued that "their clear intention was to violently hurt the IDF's soldiers." According to the prime minister, this information, which was compiled only after the deadly incident in high seas – is now penetrating the global public opinion.
Although Netanyahu did not specifically use the name 'al-Qaeda', as other Israeli officials have done in recent days, he did direct his accusations at the radical organizations which led the move.
The prime minister stressed the differences between the Turkish-owned Marmara ship and the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie ship, which was peacefully seized by the Israeli Navy on Saturday.
"I would like to thank the IDF fighters, the security officials and the government officials who handled the ship's arrival over the weekend. This is the basic difference between a humanitarian sail and last week's sail of terror activists.
"In both cases Israel used an identical procedure," Netanyahu said. "In the case of yesterday's ship and in the case of five ships in last week's flotilla, the event ended without any injuries. Only in one ship a terror-supporting organization deployed its fighters and the event ended as it did."
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) presented another dilemma for the future. "How do we prevent smuggling of weapons through the sea?" he asked. "We will have to look into solutions to lift the blockade on Gaza later on.
"The alternatives we will have to examine include increasing the volume of goods passing through Gaza crossing, increasing the list of goods taken in and having international coordination on the matter. It's time to lift the siege, east restrictions on the population and find proper alternatives."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz presented a different opinion earlier Sunday, during the Likud faction meeting. He agreed that "the nature of the connection between Israel and Gaza should be reexamined" and explained that "since the end of the disengagement, the connection between Israel and Gaza is irrational and not right.
"We are no longer there, but we are still responsible, and therefore this is an opportunity to work to cut any ties between us and Gaza, excluding supervision to prevent the entry of strategic weapons," he said.
"We must find a solution to transfer all the civilian goods to Gaza through Rafah and Egypt together with international elements, like the United States, which are interested in helping."
'Investigation should be in Knesset'
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) addressed the deteriorating relations with Turkey. "I'm watching the situation with great concern and hope we will be able to improve the relations," he said.
"I would like to note that I met with the Turkish finance minister about a month ago and that Turkey was one of the countries which voted in favor of Israel joining the OECD."
Asked whether Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead a sail to Gaza himself, the minister responded, "I hope no one does anything foolish."
Some of the ministers expressed their objection to the demand to appoint a state commission of inquiry into the deadly raid. According to Steinitz, "The most honorable solution would be the internal Israeli parliamentary solution. In a democracy such as ours, there is a body authorized to examine this issue, and that is the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) said, "We are an independent country and we can investigate ourselves. We don't need elements which are not objective, like the Turks, to investigate us."
Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman (Labor) presented a slightly different opinion. "It's clear that there will be a commission of inquiry with international participation, and Israel should cooperate so that what happened with Goldstone won't repeat itself," he said. "The prime minister must make such a decision soon."
The serious incident which took place last Monday is not on the government's agenda, but is expected to be discussed by the forum comprised of Netanyahu's top seven ministers.
One of the issues to be discussed will be UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposal of a global inquiry into the lethal raid which will be headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, along with Israeli, Turkish deputies. The offer has not been ruled out by the Foreign Ministry.