Israel readying to prevent entry of protesters
Apr 11, 2012
Israel vowed Tuesday to prevent the entry of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from Europe and North America expected to arrive in the country this weekend, calling them provocateurs who are intent on disturbing public order. The activists are set to board flights to Israel with the aim of participating in demonstrations against Israeli policy in the West Bank. Although organizers say all protests will be peaceful, Israeli officials said the activists would be deported. “”The provocateurs will be dealt with in a determined and quick way,”” said Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch. “”If they arrive to Israel they will be identified, removed from the plane, their entry into Israel will be prevented and they will be moved to a detention facility until they are flown out of Israel.”” Last July, Israel blocked a similar effort by preventing scores of activists from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights in Europe, questioning dozens more upon arrival at the airport and denying entry to 69. Israel had tracked the activists on social media sites, compiled a blacklist of more than 300 names and asked airlines to keep those on the list off flights to Israel. Officials say Israel will use similar tactics this time as well. “”They have the right to enter Palestine. It’s not up to Israel to forbid anybody from coming into Palestine,”” said Abdelfattah Abusrour, a local organizer. Israel has been jittery about large influxes of foreign activists since a naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010 turned deadly. The Israeli navy and the activists have each accused each other of sparking the bloodshed in which nine Turkish activists were killed. Organizers say this week’s mission, sponsored by an umbrella group called “”Welcome to Palestine,”” seeks to draw attention toward Israeli travel restriction on Palestinians. Visitors can reach the West Bank only through Israeli-controlled crossings, either through international airports or the land border with Jordan. Citing security concerns, Israel bars most Palestinians from entering Israel or using its airport, meaning they must travel to neighboring Jordan to fly out. Israel has even tighter restrictions on Palestinians living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Few are allowed to enter Israel. Instead, most must arrange permits to go through the southern border with Egypt — a process that can take several weeks during busy travel times. At any given time, hundreds of foreigners, including activists and aid workers, are in the West Bank. In other developments, Israeli and Palestinian officials said they expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to meet next Tuesday in what would be the highest level talks between the sides in a year and a half. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement. Peace talks have been frozen since late 2010 following the expiration of a limited Israeli freeze on West Bank settlement construction. The Palestinians say they will not resume negotiations while Israel continues to build settlements on occupied land that the Palestinians claim for a future state. A low-level dialogue between the sides early this year failed to restart formal negotiations. Officials do not expect any breakthroughs at Tuesday’s meeting. Palestinian officials say Fayyad will present a letter asking to resume peace talks based on several conditions Netanyahu has rejected in the past, including a full settlement freeze.