Despite an Israel Defense Forces plan to halt boats bearing left-wing activists on their way to Gaza, the government decided to permit the boats to reach Gaza shores in order to avoid a public relations disaster.
Senior political sources in Jerusalem said that the fact that Israel allowed the boats to reach Gaza "took the wind out of the sails of the left-wing activists who were seeking to create a provocation."
Several discussions were held last week on this matter. At the time, the IDF raised the idea of forcibly preventing the boats from reaching Gaza. The army officers suggested stopping the boats at sea and towing them to the Ashdod port for inspection, where the activists on board would be detained for interrogation.
However, after further consultation, it was decided on Friday to avoid a confrontation and to allow the boats to reach the Gaza Strip. In the wake of that decision, urgent directives were sent to Israel's embassies around the world regarding the stance they should take concerning this event.
"These are professional provocateurs and we did not want to cooperate with that on the open seas," a senior political source in Jerusalem said. "Instead of letting the entire international press obsess about this for a week, the boats received almost no coverage, simply because there was no confrontation."
Haaretz has learned that before the boats sailed, Israel attempted dialogue with the organizers. After the activists said their goal was to bring medical equipment to Gaza, the Foreign Ministry sent them a letter offering to help transfer the humanitarian aid if the boats would not sail.
Discussions will be held in the next few days on whether to stop the boats for inspection once they leave Gaza. Israeli officials are worried they might be used to smuggle wanted Palestinians out of the coastal strip. "They've got a reputation for protecting terrorists and acting as human shields," the political source said.