Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from around the world, though mainly from Europe, are expected to arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on Friday. They say their aim is to visit Bethlehem and allow visitors into Palestinian villages where entry is restricted.
A special status evaluation held Tuesday surveyed the various steps government agencies will take to prevent provocations at the airport.
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Jerusalem is treating the fly-in with a great deal of caution. "Everyone here is in hysterics," sources in Jerusalem said when commenting on the preparation in Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed on preparations by the internal security minister and police commissioner Wednesday. Netanyahu will hold a visit in Romania and Bulgaria this week which aims to enlist their support against the Palestinian recognition bid.
Israel expects some 500 activists (Archive photo: Yaron Brener)
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that some 40 organizations have confirmed their participation in the Welcome to Palestine campaign to be carried out between July 8 and July 16.
Activists landing at the Ben Gurion Airport will tour Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and the Jordan Valley.
As part of efforts to prevent damages to Israel's reputation in light of Friday's planned flight, a special operations room where the events will be mentored by the relevant officials will be established at Ben Gurion airport Thursday night.
Representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Aviation Authority, the Internal Security Ministry, police representatives, Prime Minister's Office officials and others will be present in the operations room which will work nonstop until the last of the flight participants is in Israel.
"We expect that some 500 pro-Palestinian activists will attempt to land in Israel from Europe in the coming days, with a large mass expected on Friday," an element at the Public Security Ministry said. "They will try to create provocations. We are not familiar with them all but will urge the airlines to prevent those we do know from boarding the planes."
He said that activists identified at the airport as seeking provocation will not be allowed in Israel and will be sent back to their countries. Those who will riot at the airport or refuse to head back will be transferred to a special airport facility or turned over to the Prison Service.
Israel fears provocations at airport (Archive photo: Avi Moalem)
All passengers will be checked in advance for potential to cause provocations. Activists identified as such will be personally escorted out of the planes. Police plan to place officers on all aircraft.
"One mustn't forget that these activists are not armed," a police source said. "The officers were instructed to prevent all provocations and will clear the rioters in an orderly fashion."
Moreover, the Director General of the Foreign Ministry Rafi Barak sent missives to a number of Israeli deputations in Europe and the US with citizens who are planning to take part in the flight.
In the missives Barak asked that the representatives alert the local foreign ministries of the planned events and the legal implications should the flight participants be arrested.
Meanwhile, airlines are preparing for the possibility that dozens or perhaps hundreds of European passengers will be detained at the airport before deportation. "It's possible that the foreign airlines will ban the passengers from flying back with them because of their violent potential," one source at the aviation industry said.
Activist: We're just tourists
Tom Innes, the spokesman of the flight from Britain, told Ynet that the organizers of the fly-in are expecting a total of between 500 and 700 participants.
He added that people would be flying in from different cities throughout Europe on Friday and said he would be arriving on a flight at around 2-3 pm and didn't see any reason why he couldn't visit Bethlehem.
Innes said he felt it was important to stress that the groups were not visiting Israel, but the current situation is forcing them to go through Israeli crossings to reach Bethlehem. He added that he hoped the Israeli government would allow it.
Innes rejected claims that the flight participants were interested in reaching Gaza, saying they were "invited by Palestinian friends to stay in Bethlehem."
He further denied any intent to cause a violent disruption at the airport, saying those arriving in the fly-in were "just tourists."
According to Innes the proximity of the flight to the flotilla to Gaza was completely coincidental.
Ronen Medzini, Eli Senyor, Omri Efraim and Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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