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Spanish judge seeks to prosecute PM over 2010 flotilla raid

Jerusalem dismisses legal loophole, threatening arrest of Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Liberman and others if they enter Spain, as a ‘provocation’

Israeli Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the port of Ashdod, May 31, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Israeli Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the port of Ashdod, May 31, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

A Spanish judge reopened a case that could lead to the arrest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, MK Benny Begin and several former top Israeli officials over their role in a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

A few days ago, Judge Jose de la Mata of Spain’s National Court, known as Audiencia Nacional, found a legal loophole allowing him to instruct authorities to apprehended the Israeli officials, who at the time of the Mavi Marmara incident formed the Israeli security cabinet. De la Mata instructed police to monitor the movements of Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Liberman, Eli Yishai, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin.

Jerusalem appeared unfazed. “It’s a provocation,” Foreign Ministry Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “The Israeli embassy in Madrid is in touch with Spanish General Prosecutor in order to close the file as promptly as possible. We hope that this will be over soon.”

Passengers on the deck of the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 (IDF Spokesperson's Office/ Flash 90)
Passengers on the deck of the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 (IDF Spokesperson’s Office/ Flash 90)

On May 31, 2010, pro-Palestinian activists on board the Mavi Marmara attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos were attacked with knifes, clubs and rods as they entered the vessel. The ensuing fight resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists.

Three Spanish citizens aboard the Marmara filed a lawsuit against Israel in 2010, but the court decided it no longer had the authority to prosecute foreign nationals for alleged crimes committed outside of Spain.

In recent days, however, Judge De La Mata has found a legal loophole allowing him to relaunch the case against Netanyahu and the other Israelis if they entered Spanish territory. In this case, Spanish legal system could theoretically detain the Israeli officials, question or even arrest them. Still, Netanyahu appears to be safe from arrest due to his diplomatic immunity.

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