Reaction from both sides of the political aisle poured in Sunday to the “threat” by United Arab List MK Bassal Gattas that he would join the flotilla that was planning to reach Israel at the end of June. Both rightwing and leftwing MKs and parties condemned Ghattas, saying that he would only exacerbate tensions in Israel.
In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ghattas wrote that the flotilla was "a civilian attempt to break the blockade of Gaza. This is a flotilla of peace which seeks to draw attention to the difficult situation of 1.8 million Palestinians, who live in an open-air prison under horrendous conditions, the result of the land, sea, and air blockade put up by Israel. This is nothing but a collective punishment, and a gross violation of human rights."
In his letter, Gattas warned Netanyahu against trying to use the Israeli Navy to take control of the flotilla's ships. “Any action of that type will further embroil Israel in controversy and strengthen the international crisis, with the Prime Minister and his government taking full responsibility for the outcome.”
In a statement, Zionist Union/Labor said that “just as these flotillas are not humanitarian activities but political activities to attempt to provide Hamas with legitimacy and increase terror against Israel, so too is Bassam Ghattas's joining the flotilla not a humanitarian gesture, but a political one. The only thing it will do is increase fighting and disputes in Israel.”
MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid) slammed Ghattas for his declaration. “It is very sad that MK Ghattas plans to use his position to provoke trouble,” he said. “He would be better off fighting for equal rights for Arabs. The nations he plans to help put with his presence on the flotilla they would hand him in the public square for going against the country or ruler, as he freely does here.
“When you come back from the flotilla, try to look at your actions objectively,” said Yellin of Ghattas' plan. “Put your hand on your heart, think carefully about what you have done, and breathe deeply of the freedom you are given in Israel's democracy.”
Last week, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home) addressed Ghattas personally, calling him “an embarrassment to the Knesset.
During a discussion on Gaza rocket fire against Israeli towns that was initiated by MK Haim Yellin, Ghattas said that Israel should not be surprised that Gaza Arabs fire rockets at Israel. “The conditions in the world's largest prison have not changed,” he said. “Do you wonder why there is an international boycott against Israel?” In an angry rejoinder, Ben-Dahan said that Ghattas was “an embarrassment to the Knesset, and a tragedy that an MK would join in calls for a boycott of Israel.”
Ghattas isn't the first Arab MK to join such a flotilla.
MK Hanin Zoabi participated in the infamous 2010 flotilla attack, in which terrorists aboard the Mavi Marmara attempted to kill IDF soldiers. Zoabi has said she doesn't regret taking part in the flotilla, which attempted to illegally break the IDF's blockade on the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza. Nine Islamist terrorists were killed after attacking Israeli commandos that boarded the ship, and in 2013 an Israeli court The Supreme Court rejected a petition by former MK Michael Ben-Ari and Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir to require the courts to try her for sedition for taking part in the flotilla.
In the 2010 flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars.
The wounded soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of ten of the IHH members on board.
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all.