Israeli Navy Clashes with Activist Boat “Flotilla” Headed for Gaza

From 'Moshe Yaroni's' Blog

As reports of tragedy started coming in last night, friends and I debated into the night how this would affect Israel and the Middle

East in the following weeks. First we heard that the Israeli Navy opened fire on the boats, then we heard the activists had attacked Israeli troops.

In any case, this is not good news for the region. Its too early to tell what actually happened so I’m reserving much of my opinion but what I do know is that this is horrible for Israel’s public image, and  that Bibi sucks. This could also hurt the peace process, (now in its current state of “proximity talks”) which is what I care about the most.

This morning Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street, put out this statement on the J Street Blog:

In Wake of Flotilla Tragedy, J Street Urges Stronger US Leadership to End Conflict Now

Posted on the J Street Blog – May 31st, 2010 11:15 am

Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement upon reports of an IDF clash with the Gaza Flotilla:

A man wounded aboard a Gaza-bound aid convoy arrives at an Israeli hospital, May 31, 2010 Photo by: Ofer Vaknin

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. We hope that leaders on all sides will take immediate steps to ensure that this incident does not escalate into a broader round of violence – in Israel, in Gaza, or in the region.

There will undoubtedly be calls in the coming days for a UN investigation into today’s events. A credible, independent commission appointed by the Israeli government should provide the world with a full and complete report into the causes and circumstances surrounding the day’s events and establish responsibility for the violence and bloodshed.

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. J Street has been and continues to be opposed to the blockade – believing that there are better ways to ensure Israel’s security and to prevent weapons smuggling than a complete closure of the Gaza Strip.

We do not know yet what the impact of today’s incident will be on the just-restarted peace process, on Israel’s relations with the international community, or on the health of Arab-Jewish relations within Israel itself.

We do know, however, that today is one more nail in the coffin for hopes of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully and diplomatically and for preserving Israel’s Jewish and democratic character. We urge President Obama and other international and regional leaders to take today’s terrible news as an opportunity to engage even more forcefully in immediate efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It appears President Barack Obama decided to withhold judgement due to the obvious chaos of the situation, and the conflicting reports coming from the Israeli Naval forces and pro-Palestinian activists aboard the boats which attempted to reach Gaza this morning as most of us slept.

The President released this statement with regard to the incident:

“This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  He said he understood the Prime Minister’s decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today’s events.  They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.”

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