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Former Israeli UN Ambassador Dore Gold on the flotilla crisis

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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HH: I am joined now from Israel by Dore Gold. Ambassador Gold served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1997-1999. He’s been an advisor to prime ministers, a huge feature in the Israeli diplomatic front, currently runs the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Ambassador Gold, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, always a pleasure to talk to you.

DG: Good to be here, Hugh. Thank you.

HH: What do you think the American public needs to know about the flotilla incident that they are not hearing?

DG: Everything you’re hearing is probably wrong. That’s what I think has to be said. This is not a humanitarian flotilla to bring humanitarian goods, food, water to the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip has plenty of food, plenty of water. The marketplaces are full with all kinds of produce. That’s not what this is about. The people on these boats were not peace activists singing we shall overcome. And particularly, the boat called The Marmera, the sixth boat, where there was a major incident between our naval commandos and the people on board, the people there are members of an organization called IHH, which is a Turkish organization that is supportive of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hamas. They are radical Islamists. Israel has a naval blockade around Gaza to keep out Iranian weapons, and the Iranian rockets that have been used against Israeli citizens. It is Israel’s right to board any ship trying to run that blockade. That’s all we wanted to do. If they were humanitarian workers, they would have let us see that there’s nothing on the boat, and they would have gone on. But instead, they decided to attack our soldiers, and we defended ourselves.

HH: What did you make of the United States decision to join in the United Nations Security Council resolution on Monday? Eliot Abrams at the Weekly Standard has condemned it, I’ve condemned it. What do you think, Dore Gold?

DG: Well, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for us. You know, the truth is, what we did is what the United States does. You put a blockade around Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, because you didn’t want Russian missiles in 1962 to get to Cuba to be aimed at the United States. That is a legal thing to do. The British Navy did the same thing in the area of the Falklands during World War II. There were blockades against your enemy countries. I mean, who are we blockading? We’re blockading Hamas, the Hamas entity. Hamas is an international terrorist organization. It’s defined as such by the United States, European Union, Canada. They rule the Gaza Strip. They are trying to import weapons from Iran so they can launch rockets against the citizens of Israel. If we open up Gaza and just let ships come in, we’re going to have hundreds of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. We have a right to defend ourselves, and we would expect that the countries of the world would respect that.

HH: So why did the media get away from Israel in this instance so radically, and so quickly? Because I think you’ll have to agree, even with supporters of Israel, that the media response was overwhelmingly against Israel in the first 24 hours. It’s turning back now as more data comes out. But was Israel well prepared for this?

DG: Well, you know, there are questions in Israel about the speed with which we got material out. You know, people first heard about this, they said oh, humanitarian workers trying to bring aid to the people of Gaza who are starving, and the Israeli Army attacks humanitarian workers? I mean, the initial impression sounds bad. Only, perhaps, six, eight, ten hours into the operation, after the operation did we get the full details of what was going on. Israel filmed the terrorists on board this one ship called the Marmera, how they had knives and clubs, and as the soldiers came down to board this ship, they started attacking them. They took their guns and shot at them. This was not a bunch of, as I said before, humanitarian workers who are supporting peace. This was the IHH, an organization that supports international terrorism. If anybody should do an investigation, it’s what happened to Turkey. Turkey was a NATO ally. Why is this prime minister, Erdogan, supporting an organization like IHH that was involved in the millennium bomb plot back in the year 2000? I mean, this is the mystery, and that’s what should be investigated at the U.N.

HH: What is going on inside of Turkey? There are calls today to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. It has been traditionally an ally of Israel, at least the most friendly Muslim nation to Israel. What do you see is happening there?

DG: Well, I think the issue of Turkey is one of the biggest mistakes of the West. Turkey used to be a NATO ally. Harry Truman, President Truman back in 1947, extended aid to Turkey. That was all part of the Truman Doctrine to protect it from the Soviet Union. And even though it was, it had a large Muslim population, it had been very secular under its founding ruler, Kemal Mustafa Ataturk. But now, Turkey is run by a radical Islamic party, and its prime minster, Erdogan, has now pulled Turkey from a pro-Western orientation to becoming an ally of the Iranians. It’s a terrible development. Turkey has been badly mishandled. But as a result, it’s become more hostile to America, it’s become more hostile to Israel, and the Europeans don’t want to talk about it, but they’re very nervous.

HH: Now other than 1956, and that even then, it took a week or so for Eisenhower to express grave concern over Israel, France and Britain’s attack on Egypt, I don’t believe the United States has ever stood apart from Israel so visibly as this week. And I don’t believe it’s even happened in the first day of an incident or a crisis. Am I wrong in my history, Dore Gold?

DG: Well, let me put in a little perspective. We had a decision taken by the UN Security Council. It was not a formal resolution. It was what was called a presidential statement, which is not binding. And I suppose U.S. diplomats at the UN decided that so, Israel will get their knuckles rapped with a presidential statement. At least we’re protecting the Israelis from a full-scale UN Security Council resolution. But it’s like saying, you know, we’ll give you the lesser disease rather than the major disease. I can’t say that this is a sharp break between the U.S. and Israel, but I can say that it sometimes is preferable not to negotiate with countries that want to go after an ally, lynch an ally diplomatically. It’s sometimes better just to say no.

HH: That’s what I think. Now last question, that which gets rewarded gets repeated. Given the reaction at the UN and around the world to the Islamist attempt to run the, break the embargo, Do you expect more convoys, more attempts to generate controversy and place Israel in a bad light?

DG: That’s absolutely true, because this is not about humanitarian aid for Gaza. Gaza, as I said before, the markets are full. You can get anything in Gaza today. Even the price of cement is dropping, there’s such a huge amount of building materials there. This is all about delegitimizing the state of Israel. This is about denying the right of Israel, denying the right of self-defense by Israel. And Prime Minister Netanyahu was very firm in two press conferences today. Israel will protect its right of self-defense against organizations allied with al Qaeda, Hamas and with the Turks.

HH: Ambassador Dore Gold, thanks for staying up late in Israel to join us today. I appreciate it very much.

End of interview.

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