Israel Prepares for “Airtilla”

In addition to the flotilla currently stuck in Greece, Israel faces the arrival of hundreds of activists arriving via plane from Europe on Friday in an aerial equivalent of the maritime flotilla. In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered the Israeli Police and security establishment to prepare for any incidents stemming from the mass arrivals.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu toured Ben Gurion Airport with Police Inspector-General Yochanan Danino and Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch in preparation for discussions about the necessary preparations. Netanyahu said regarding the preparations that “Every country has the right to prevent the entry of provocateurs and trouble-makers into its territory. That is how all countries behave and that is how Israel will act. We must prevent the disruption of normal life for Israeli citizens.”

After working furiously over the last few weeks, the Israeli Police completed its preparations on Tuesday and will halt approximately 700 activists wishing to enter Israel on Friday. The plans, while not publicized, are apparently based on the fact that many of the protestors are not a “watch list” and can easily bypass security. According to spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, the goal is to “keep Ben Gurion Airport safe and functioning normally while preventing any provocations.”

The activists are mostly European countries such as Norway, Sweden and the UK. They plan to tell Israeli customs officials they are visiting “Palestine” and expect to be allowed through security. If they get through, they intend to spend a week visiting Palestinian cities and participating in solidarity activities. If they are denied entry, the activists intend to use the media coverage as proof that Israel restricts Palestinian movement and is “an apartheid state.”

In addition to the police’s preparations, the government has stepped up the number of patrol units around the airport and is keeping them in place until the middle of next week. Netanyahu has also ordered the Foreign Ministry to contact the European and American governments in order to warn them of the situation and the likely legal consequences if any flights are compromised by activists.

Israel has detained and denied entry to activists in the past. This time, however, they will arrest and jail those who plan to cause problems.