PM Netanyahu’s Statement at the Conclusion of His Meeting with PM Stephen Harper
Photo by GPO 

I very much appreciate the invitation by Prime Minister Harper to visit Canada.  We have a very important relationship between Israel and Canada.  We’re going to discuss some of the aspects of this relationship.  We already have and in the time available, we’ll continue as best as we can.  But as Prime Minister Harper said, correctly, we are in the middle of unfolding events.  As a result of what happened yesterday, I explained to the Prime Minister that I would have to cut my visit short and go back to Israel.

I just had a conversation with President Obama and I told him that I would have to go back to Israel.  We both agreed that we’d have very close consultations right now and try to reschedule our meeting to the earliest date possible.  I think both Prime Minister Harper and President Obama understand that Israel has a great security problem, and I want to put it into context.

The context is that Gaza has become a base for Hamas terrorists backed by Iran, from which they fire thousands of rockets into Israel.  They’re amassing thousands more rockets to fire at our cities, at our towns, at our children.  Our policy is this: we try to let in all humanitarian goods into Gaza, all peaceful commodities – food, medicine and the like.  What we want to prevent coming into Gaza are rockets, missiles, explosives and war materiel that could be used to attack our civilians.

This is an ongoing policy and it was the one that guided our action yesterday.  We told the flotilla of ships, we said: “You can take all your cargo.  Put it in our port of Ashdod.  We’ll just ferret out if there are any war materiels and the rest will go through.”  We succeeded doing this peacefully with five of the six ships.  The sixth ship, the largest, which had hundreds of people on it not only did not cooperate in this effort, they deliberately attacked the first soldiers that came on the ship.  They were mobbed; they were clubbed; they were beaten; they were stabbed and there was even a report of gunfire. 

Our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives or they would have been killed, and regrettably, in this exchange at least ten people died.  We regret this loss of life.  We regret any of the violence that was there.  I would like to wish speedy recovery to the wounded, including four of our own soldiers. 

Our policy was and will continue to be that we will let humanitarian aid, any kinds of goods that are meant for peace to the civilian population in Gaza.  We have no quarrel with the people of Gaza.  We do have a conflict with the terrorist regime of Hamas, supported by Iran.  We want to maintain a situation were we prevent weapons and raw materials from coming into Gaza. That is our main task.  We’ll be talking to our friends in Canada and the United States and we will let them have the available information as we uncover it.

Thank you very much.