Israel Finds Unexpected Support against Flotilla

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The international community and especially some of the Mediterranean countries are extending overwhelming support toward the Israeli position on the second Gaza-bound flotilla this year.

Some observers have been surprised at the support. Last year Israel was widely condemned after nine activists were killed during clashes with Israeli Navy commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of last year’s flotilla.

In spite of severe criticism from Hamas and the activists taking part in this year’s flotilla, Greece is standing firm in its decision to support Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkey, which was in the forefront of last year’s flotilla, backed out this year. Relations between the two countries -- which had soured since the Mavi Marmara -- have been on the mend since the beginning of this year.  

The president of Cyprus was the first to voice his allegiance to Israel in its stand against the flotilla.

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, believes the reason behind the international support is its reformed understanding of the situation in Gaza.

“The international community has come to realize that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is being used to break the law. Hamas has been using the situation to bring weapons into Gaza. Aid could very well be sent into Gaza via the U.N. and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations). There’s no reason to break international laws,” Palmor told CBN News.

“As for the support from Greece, it has nothing to do with the economic situation,” he said. “Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, they all understand why Israel has to continue with the naval blockade. It is lawful, as is clear from the U.N. secretary-general’s announcement to the countries in the Mediterranean to discourage the flotilla,” he said.

While many are speculating about this turn of events, Dr. Jonathan Rynhold of Bar Ilan University and a specialist in Israeli diplomacy told CBN news the change reflects a greater awareness in the international community about the people behind the flotilla.

“They know these people are against peace and stability not only in this region, but in the international community as a whole,” said Rynhold.

Rynhold believes Greece is supporting Israel because it wants to be seen as cooperating with the wider international community at this time of economic crisis in the country.

Another component of the Greek government’s support for Israel could be the burgeoning friendship between the two countries. “Netanyahu has become Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union,” an Israeli diplomat said recently.

"Turkey on the other hand is worried about Iranian-Syrian anti-peace activities and the recent spate of demonstrations that have sprung up in Muslim nations across the Middle East," said Rynhold.

Experts say Turkey is also worried about harsh criticism in the U.N. report on last year’s flotilla. The current report highlights the relationship between the Turkish government and the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). If the report is released as is, some say bilateral ties between Turkey and Israel would likely be frozen for a long time.

Turkey has already seen a 59 percent decline in Israeli tourists in the first half of 2011 and may be keen to improve this situation. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that after being re-elected in June 2011, the Erdoğan government seems to be changing its stance toward Israel.

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Padmakshi Parkhe

Padmakshi Parkhe

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