'Flotilla Doesn't Change Right to Self-Defense'

In a special interview with Arutz Sheva, Deputy Foreign Minister says Israel is using good "quiet diplomacy" to combat the latest flotilla.

Shimon Cohen ,

Tzipi Hotovely
Tzipi Hotovely
Flash 90

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Sunday said that a good “quiet diplomacy” combined with IDF preparation was the best way to take on the latest provocative flotilla headed to Gaza.

"The Israeli policy since the Marmara, and there have been three flotillas since, is to keep a low profile with regards to these flotillas,” Hotovely told Arutz Sheva. “Israel is doing everything using quiet diplomacy and, in a world where cruel terrorist attacks such as those of the weekend take place, the flotilla is not as popular but is rather viewed as a provocation rather than something real. The State of Israel has legitimacy when it comes to its everyday defense.”

"The world understands that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The international press is not covering this flotilla. There is no resonance for this event. I have not seen a major international newspaper talk about this flotilla," she continued, adding that while it would not be wise for Israel to completely ignore the provocation, there is certainly no place to empower it either.

"Israel operates in two channels,” explained Hotovely. “The Foreign Ministry works through diplomatic channels, which means understandings with other countries through which this flotilla passes, and the other channel, perhaps most importantly, is the fact that the IDF’s commando unit which works to stop such moves has not conducted a violent arrest of members of these provocative flotillas since the Mavi Marmara, as they only intend to draw attention and we do not allow them to receive this attention.”

She noted that Israel continues to offer all those who are interested in sending humanitarian assistance to Gaza to do so in an orderly fashion through the port of Ashdod, in which the contents will be examined and any aid transferred to Gaza - something the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 flotilla refused to do before it was ultimately discovered that it was carrying no humanitarian aid.

"Anyone who is not prepared to accept this arrangement shows that his intentions are not good and that his hands are unclean,” said Hotovely. “The State of Israel is not in a situation where it has to explain itself. We have international legitimacy when it comes to the situation in Gaza. We are dealing with a ruthless terrorist organization and we have the right to defend ourselves and the flotillas do not undermine this legitimacy.”

The activists on the current flotilla, she continued, will be quietly detained by security forces and this should be successful despite the presence of journalists on the vessel.

“At the end of the day, this ship is breaking the law and we have the full right to carry out this arrest and we have had a very successful experience of cooperation between the IDF and the diplomatic system which backs it up,” said Hotovely.

Hotovely was then asked about comments by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who took a surprising stance on Gaza over the weekend, advocating for the region’s rebuilding despite his party's tough line on defense.

"I think that at this time, when Israel is rehabilitating itself in the face of the UN’s report on Operation Protective Edge, it would be right to act with caution and not I am not certain these statements are the right thing," she said, adding that in her opinion, as long as Hamas continues to strengthen itself by building terror tunnels, Israel should act with caution with regards to Gaza.

As for the UN report which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza, Hotovely was asked whether the world was beginning to accept Israel’s side of the story and replied, “The government chose a preventive measure and three weeks ago we presented a report by the Foreign Ministry which contains the Israeli version and includes photographic documentation on the use of civilian facilities [by Hamas] and so on. These things resonated well in the world and the release of the UN report was delayed because Judge Davis, who headed the commission of inquiry, wanted to see the Israeli statement. There is a message here that when we create such preventive action, it has an effect, retroactively, on reality.”

The UN report, she continued, “is unsympathetic and I certainly would not have signed it, but it's nowhere near the negativity of the Goldstone Report. There is no statement that [Israeli] weapons were pointed toward civilian populations. We have a very careful army. The reality of the constant legal backing adds to the credit given to Israel and we did a lot to reduce the damage.”

The IDF, Hotovely said unequivocally, “is indeed the most moral military in the world and we have proof and evidence from generals from the world. There is a lot of anti-Semitism [in this report]. The UN’s Human Rights Committee is the only committee that has a special section to discuss Israel’s affairs. In the reality of Syria, and Hamas andf ISIS terrorism, Israel remaining on the agenda is a hypocrisy with which we have been dealing for many years. We are doing everything to show transparency and prove that we maintain human rights. All of these together are the maximum that Israel can do.”