The Israeli Minister of Trade and Industry, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, is currently leading the opposition against plans to intercept aid ships to Gaza and has urged the government to find alternative means of preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.
In a speech to the Cultural Forum in Beersheba, Ben-Eliezer said he was ready to accept the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip if it prevented the suppression of civilian vessels at sea. Ben-Eliezer asserted that “the way we handled the Marmara aid ship lacked wisdom and professionalism.” He went on to say that “There were a series of blunders associated with the attack, starting with the decision to attack being taken in informal settings rather than in the security cabinet” “Killing nine passengers was a disaster”. However, according to him, the problem is that the difference between killing 9 people and 190 people was very narrow, “Chance alone prevented the killing of a greater number of people” he said.
Ben-Eliezer also stated that “the aims of the blockade did not materialize. Instead of weakening Hamas, it has a quantity of weapons three times what it did before the last war. And today, Israel is suffering from the embargo and not Hamas”. As such, Ben-Eliezer called for an end to the siege and a search for ‘creative means’ to address the ‘dilemma with Hamas and the release of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Likud Minister of Environment, Gilad Erdan, supported Ben-Eliezer’s opinion by stating in an interview with Israeli TV that the blockade of the Gaza Strip had failed and caused damage to Israel. Erdan also said “We just want to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, and in this the world is supporting us” “We have to reach a settlement with one of the friendly nations; France or Italy, for control of the seas, to inspect ships to ensure they are free of weapons and to allow food, medical and humanitarian materials to pass.”
Preparations for two Lebanese ships sailing from the port of Beirut into Gaza have now been concluded and extensive preparations for “Freedom Flotilla 2” which will include between 30 and 40 ships from various nations and continents are well underway. Israel could officially send a message through its ambassador in the United Nations confirming that Israel will consider any ship sailing to Gaza as a threat to its security as well as to international peace and security and will face a decisive response from it.