Netanyahu: Flotilla was no love boat

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on June 2 made his first public statement to the nation in the wake of the Israel Defense Forces raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

Speaking some 60 hours after the raid, Netanyahu said, “This wasn’t the ‘love boat.’ This was a flotilla of terror supporters.”

He went on: “It is our right according to international law to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza and that is why the naval blockade was put in place. The flotilla intended to break the blockade, not to bring in emergency supplies which we allow to reach Gaza.

“If the blockade had been broken, hundreds of ships would have followed, with a scale of smuggling far greater than that possible in the tunnels. Two ships stopped in [recent] years — Francop and Karine-A — had hundreds of tons of weapons.”

The Karine-A was an Iranian ship carrying arms to Gaza that Israeli troops boarded eight years ago in the Red Sea. The MV Francop was an Iranian cargo ship carrying arms to Hezbollah that was boarded off the coast of Cyprus in November 2009.

“Opening [a naval] route to Gaza would be a huge threat to the security of our citizens,” Netanyahu said. “That is why we insist on maintaining the blockade and on examining the ships” in spite of international pressure and criticism against it, he said.

He called the reaction to the raid “an attack of international hypocrisy” and said, “It is our duty to examine any ship going to Gaza. If we don’t do this, the result would be an Iranian port in Gaza, only a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv.” —