Turkish ambassador to Washington Namik Tan threatened his government would break relations with Israel unless it apologizes for the commando raid on its flotilla for Gaza. Israel must also accept an indepdent probe and end its Gaza blockade. In Turkey, prime minster Recep Erdogan said Friday, June 4: "I do not think Hamas is a terrorist organization. They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land," whereas Israelis were no better than Somali pirates.
This was Turkey's response to the Netanyahu government's newfound willingness to soften its determination to maintain Israel's sea and land blockade against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – even though the great majority of Israelis believe the blockade is vital to national security and acclaim the naval commandos' raid on the Turkish-led flotilla as heroic.
debkafile's military and political sources report that in public, the prime minister and defense and foreign ministers avow their resolve to keep Gaza sealed under tight Israeli control to prevent Iranian arms ships from docking there – for as long as Hamas is at war with the Jewish state.
In practice, however, Israel has opened the door for international, even pro-Palestinian Hamas elements, to monitor foreign freights bound for the Gaza Strip.
This was revealed Friday morning, June 4, in a statement by Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossie Gal about the message he relayed to the Rachel Corrie, the last remaining vessel of the Turkish-led flotilla vessel now on its way to Gaza.
He said: "I would like to transfer a message once more that has already been conveyed through public and private channels to the ship: We have no interest in boarding the ship. If it sails directly to Ashdod port, we will secure its crew and refrain from boarding it. Israel is prepared to receive the ship and unload its cargo. After it is checked to makes sure it contains no weapons, we will be prepared to transfer all of the goods to Gaza."
But then the Israeli official invited the activists on board the Rachel Corrie to accompany the shipment to the Gaza border.
"We will cooperate with the UN and international organizations in order to ensure that all of the cargo is put to the use of Gaza's citizens," he said.
He refrained from mentioning that the activists he had invited to accompany the shipment include members of the violently anti-Israel Free Gaza Organization, partners of the Turkish IHH terrorist group, known for its ties with Hamas and al Qaeda.
The Rachel Corrie responded by denying any message or warning had come from Israel. They were determined to reach Gaza, not Ashkelon. If the ship is diverted to Ashdod, they said, they would not resist Israeli soldiers but sit on the decks and refuse to cooperate.
Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman declared firmly Friday night: No ships will reach Gaza. "There is nothing simpler than getting us to open the Gaza crossings: Let the Red Cross visit Gilead Shalit," he said.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report: The Turkish government and radical Palestinian and non-Palestinian organizations are working closely together on their next moves, using the first flotilla boarded by Israeli commandos this week as the vanguard of a broader challenge to Israel. They see its Gaza blockade as the outer rampart to be knocked over first. Erdogan has earmarked millions of dollars for the IHH to purchase eight or ten ships bigger than the Mavi Marmara for their next assault, packed with the same "peace activists" as before.
Any sign of Israeli weakness in response to international censure on encourages them to redouble their efforts on behalf of Hamas. In his latest brickbat for Israel, Erdogan saw no contradiction between quoting the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not kill" – while solidly backing the murderous Palestinian organization dedicated to Israel's destruction.
The "peace activists" aboard the Mavi Marmara were recorded on video as telling each other: "Remember September 11th." Their pockets were found stuffed with thousands of dollars.
In Jerusalem, police were out in force to quell Palestinian riots in support of Turkey. Hurling rocks at passing Israeli cars on the streets of East Jerusalem, the demonstrators shouted: "Erdogan, come and destroy Tel Aviv!" Turkish flags were seen on city streets for the first time since the Ottoman Empire was defeated.