'Deal with Turks doesn't require Gaza blockade end'

By
March 25, 2013 00:47

Israeli national security adviser tells Army Radio, "We do not intend to give up on our right to respond to what happens in Gaza."

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Former NSC head Ya'acov Amidror

Amidror 311. (photo credit: Nisim Lev)

National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said on Sunday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday did not obligate Israel to end the blockade of Gaza as the Turks had demanded, and it could clamp down harder on the Palestinian enclave if it needed to because of security considerations.

Through a telephone meeting brokered by US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologized for operational errors that may have led to the loss of life on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in 2010.

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Following the conversation, Erdogan said Israel had met his demands to apologize for killing nine Turks aboard the ship, pay compensation to those bereaved or hurt and lift the blockade by allowing in more consumer goods.

That fell well short, however, of an end to the blockade – which Erdogan had routinely insisted on during the almost three-year-old rift as a condition for rapprochement.

Erdogan, meanwhile, told a crowd of supporters on Sunday that normalization of ties would only take place if Israel implemented the conditions of the deal discussed in the conversation with Netanyahu. The only firm condition mentioned in the statement following that conversation was payment of compensation.

“If there is quiet, the processes easing the lives of Gazan residents will continue. And if there is Katyusha fire, then these moves will be slowed and even stopped and, if necessary, even reversed,” Amidror said on Army Radio.

“We did not agree to promise that under any condition we would continue to transfer all the things into Gaza and ease up on the residents of Gaza if there is shooting from there,” Amidror added. “We do not intend to give up on our right to respond to what happens in Gaza because of the agreement with the Turks.”

Defense official Amos Gilad said the blockade on Gaza was still very necessary.

“We have nothing against the Palestinian people. The maritime blockade derives from security considerations only, as terrorist groups can smuggle huge amounts of weaponry by sea,” Gilad told Army Radio.

Another official told Reuters that Hamas was still trying to bring in arms, and that this made “the blockade as necessary as always.”

Netanyahu convened his new, trimmed down security cabinet for the first time on Sunday, amid growing tension along the Syrian border, the beginnings of reconciliation with Turkey, and following Obama’s trip to the region.

According to law, the security cabinet – where top national security decisions are discussed and often voted on – can be as large as half of the cabinet, meaning Netanyahu could have appointed another six ministers to the six who the law mandates must be members of the forum.

He chose, however, to only add two members, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Communications and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud Beytenu).

The previous security cabinet numbered 15 members, with another four observers, making the body unwieldy for serious discussion and decision-making.

As a result, Netanyahu set up a smaller, informal forum of variously seven and eight ministers as his major consultative body on these issues.

It appears he will not set up a similar “kitchen cabinet” this time, and instead rely on the smaller security cabinet.

In addition to Netanyahu, the other five ministers who must be part of the forum are Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud Beytenu), Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu), Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), and the foreign minister, who has still not yet been named, but which is being reserved for Avigdor Liberman (Likud Beytenu).

The ministers heard security briefings at Sunday’s meeting.

Among the top issues on the security cabinet's agenda is the situation in Syria, which spilled over across Israel’s border on Sunday when an IDF jeep was fired on and the army returned fire.

Diplomatic officials said that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria was already having an enormous impact on both Jordan and Turkey, and the possible use of chemical weapons there last week had significantly altered the entire equation.

The issue is of major concern not only to Israel, Jordan and Turkey, but also to the US which wants to be able to sit down with its regional allies and cooperate and share intelligence.

This, the official said, was behind the US determination to see an improvement in Israeli-Turkish ties.

Following last Thursday’s firing of rockets into the western Negev from Gaza during Obama’s visit, Israel responded by closing the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal crossing with Gaza and restricting the Strip’s fishing area to three miles – rather than six miles – from the coast.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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