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Monday Aug. 9, 2010 1:23 PM (EST+7)
TRANSCRIPT: Excerpts from Netanyahu testimony to Turkel commission

Read more: Freedom Flotilla, Gaza convoy, investigation, convoy, aid convoy, Gaza convoy, international inquiry, Israeli military, Mavi Marmara

JERUSALEM, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The following are excerpts from an official transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on Monday to a commission of inquiry into Israel's May 31 naval raid on a Gaza aid flotilla.

I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the State of Israel and the IDF (Israel Defense Force) acted in accordance with international law, and that IDF combatants on the deck of the (Turkish-owned ship Mavi) Marmara displayed extraordinary courage in fulfilling their mission and in defending themselves against a clear lethal danger.

The appearance of the prime minister of Israel before this commission today is the best proof of the standards according to which Israeli democracy operates. ....

From the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been raining thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar bombs on the State of Israel, striking at our communities and citizens ... Today Hamas is stockpiling weapons that can reach Tel Aviv and other distant parts of Israel.


As part of the effort to prevent weapons entering the Strip, my government has continued the naval blockade policy that was imposed by the previous government during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, and this pursuant to the limitation and oversight on commercial traffic over the land crossings that were imposed in September 2007.

Upon taking office as prime minister I learned that many of our friends in the world were repeating Hamas's claim that the curbs imposed in 2007 and the naval blockade in place since January 2009 had created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

But the information in our hands showed clearly that this claim was bogus, that there was no starvation in Gaza nor lack of medication or of other vital goods.


Though there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, I decided to ease, gradually, the limitation of commercial traffic across the land crossings.

I did this because gradually, over time, these curbs had become a diplomatic and PR liability, serving a mendacious propaganda assault that began to undermine the support of the international community for our policy of stopping the entry of weapons to Gaza.


Elements hostile to Israel used the bogus rationale of a humanitarian crisis in order to try to break the naval blockade.

This was and is the main aim of Hamas in its efforts to encourage the various flotillas.


Beginning on May 14, my office held contacts with the highest levels of the Turkish government. These contacts, and later on contacts between (Israeli) defence minister and Turkish foreign minister as well ... were intended to prevent a confrontation with the Marmara flotilla, and they continued until the eve of the flotilla's arrival on Gaza's shores. I similarly appealed to a senior figure in Egypt's government on May 27 so it would intercede with the Turkish government.

But as the flotilla's arrival neared, it became clear that the diplomatic efforts would not stop it.

Despite our continuous diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara to break the naval blockade. All our proposals to route the ships' cargo for a security vetting in Ashdod, and later for transfer through the land crossings to Gaza, were to no avail. Nor did we hear any public message from the Turkish government aimed at calming the excitability of the activists aboard the ship.

It appears that the Turkish government did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel something that clashed with its interests, and certainly not something that would warrant applying effective pressure on the IHH activists.

I should point out that on the 17th of that month the Turkish prime minister met the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, and the president of Brazil for a joint declaration on the matter of the Iranian nuclear deal, which was contrary to the position of the United States and the other permanent members of the Security Council. Thus Turkey bolstered its solidarity and cooperation with Iran in the days before the flotilla.

I asked that, as much as possible, the friction (of the interception) be reduced and that supreme effort be made to avoid casualties. I know that this was also the instruction of the defense minister and (IDF) chief of staff.

I gave a number of directives for limiting the PR damage through various means.

(Yet) the first reports from the incident that circulated in the world claimed that our soldiers killed innocent and clement peace activists.

Only when the video clip was disseminated a few hours later did this lie begin to be exposed. Imagine what had happened had we not had this video clip.

Only then did many understand that our soldiers had been confronted with real threats to their lives, facing brutal attack with clubs, iron bars, and knives -- and, as you have certainly already been informed, firearms.







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