Israeli and Turkish representatives are working against the clock in New York, trying to patch together a formula to end the Mavi Marmara affair before a July 7 deadline set for the issuing of a UN report on the incident that could potentially exacerbate tensions between the two countries.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon has joined Joseph Ciechanover, Israel’s representative on the Palmer Commission, in New York for talks with the Turkish representative on the committee, Ozden Sanberk, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, to hammer together a formula.
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Geoffrey Palmer, the head of the commission that’s investigating the incident that led to the death of nine Turks as they tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, has said he intended to issue his committee’s report on Thursday – regardless of whether Israel and Turkey came to a prior agreement on a statement on the matter.
The fourth member of the panel is former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.
Diplomatic sources say this deadline has served as an impetus to both sides to try to find a formula, amid concern that once the report is issued it would be more difficult for Turkey or Israel to reconcile the matter.
Turkey reportedly asked Palmer to delay issuing the report, which was first scheduled to be released on May 15. The report is widely believed to uphold Israel’s legal right to impose a naval blockade against the Gaza Strip, while at the same time charging that Israel used excessive force.
The Turks are demanding an Israeli apology and compensation to the
victims, but Israel has said that while it was willing to pay
compensation – as long as it was done in a way that would not open it up
to future legal claims – it would not apologize. Rather, Jerusalem has
said it would be willing to express regret for the loss of life.
Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Ya’alon as the Israeli representative to
the talks is widely believed as having to do with domestic Israeli
politics – being that if Ya’alon (considered among the more hawkish
ministers, and a former chief of staff with impeccable security
credentials) says that the formula was acceptable, then Netanyahu would
be able to sell it to the cabinet, and public.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, came out for the second time in
as many days on Tuesday in strong favor of finding a formula that would
allow reconciliation with the Turks.
Barak, speaking at an IDF exercise in the Negev, said that while there
were problems with Turkey as a result of last year’s Gaza-bound
flotilla, “I think Turkey is a central state in the Middle East. A way
needs to be found to reconcile with it.
“We have enough adversaries in the Middle East, that we don’t need to turn Turkey into one,” he added.