Israeli Public Diplomacy Minister: Flotilla Was About Provocation, Not Humanitarian Aid

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 1, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Israel is fiercely defending its soldiers. Joining us live is Yuli Edelstein, Israel's minister of public diplomacy. Good evening.


VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, tell me, what did you know about the cargo, if anything? And what efforts were made to determine the cargo of these ships before they were stopped?

EDELSTEIN: Well, first of all, to add to the facts that you rightly presented here, Israel not only tried in real time to explain to the ships that they could proceed to the port of Ashdod for inspection and then all the goods would be moved to Gaza. We had contacted the Turkish government in advance -- officially, non-officially -- offering that all the so-called humanitarian aid would be passed to Israel, inspected and then immediately moved to Gaza. By the way, Egypt made a similar offer.

But unfortunately, it was, I guess, not about humanitarian aid, it was a provocation, as the organizers themselves said. And unfortunately, on one out of six ships, al Qaeda-trained gangs attacked Israeli soldiers, and the results, unfortunately, are deadly results. I think that we do have to check ourselves thoroughly in terms of the operation itself, but in terms of the bigger picture. There is no question that we had, A, the legal right, B, the necessity to intercept the flotilla going to Gaza. We suspected...

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) What is the -- I mean, why the provocation now? And why do you think, if you offered to inspect the cargo and if Egypt did, as well -- you know, why was that rejected?

EDELSTEIN: Well, A, because by definition, it was a provocation. The organizers knew for a fact that there is no real shortage of basic supplies, or medicine or food in the Gaza strip. Israel -- by the way, just to give you some basis for comparison, we are talking about all the goods now already being moved to Gaza, all in all about 10 tons of different supplies. Israel moves to Gaza about 18 tons of different supplies every week. So definitely, that's not something that is going to attend (ph) to all the problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, tomorrow or the next day, another ship could be coming as part of this flotilla. What are you going to do?

EDELSTEIN: Greta, in terms of the general policy, nothing changed. We can't allow...

VAN SUSTEREN: You're going to stop -- you're going to stop the ship, then?

EDELSTEIN: Absolutely. We can't allow uninspected merchandise moved into the Gaza strip because we know for a fact that most of it will be weapons, ammunition. It will by definition cause a new round of violence in our area. And definitely, we're trying to keep some basic stability in the area.

We should inspect the goods. We are taking care of humanitarian needs. At the same time, as long as Hamas and other terrorist organizations are in power, as long as al Qaeda, Hezbollah, all the bad names are trying to play the game in the area, we have to be in control. We have to be in charge.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you worried or is Israel on any sort of heightened alert or anything of now that sort of things have been -- that the battle has been engaged, so to speak? Are you worried there'll be retaliation?

EDELSTEIN: Well, I think that, first of all, as I've said already, we are first of all taking care of the security, of the wellbeing of our citizens. And by the way, by the same token, of the innocent Palestinians. In terms of measures taken, I was very disappointed to hear certain statements coming from different countries with nearly automatic demands from Israel to change its policy, to remove the siege. I think that now, with more information getting out, it's quite obvious that it was still another attempt to Israel -- of Israel to prevent a terrorist attack.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you satisfied with the response of the United States?

EDELSTEIN: Well, the United States didn't condemn the Israeli action, and I'm glad about it. There are some other countries that gave more or less objective statements. They regret and we regret any loss of human lives. At the same time, as long as...

VAN SUSTEREN: So are you happy...

EDELSTEIN: ... Hamas are in power, we have to act.

VAN SUSTEREN: So are you satisfied with the American response or not?

EDELSTEIN: Well, I think, I believe, I hope that the American administration and the Congress and the Senate will stand by us in our fight against terrorism. I think that in terms of our mutual interest, the Iranian danger, the Hezbollah danger, the al Qaeda danger are dangers for the United States, for Israel, for all the democratic countries in the world, and we have to act together against it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Minister, thank you, sir.

EDELSTEIN: Thank you, Greta.

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