Turkey is not interested in a diplomatic reconciliation with Israel, but rather in humiliating it and bringing it to its knees, Israeli officials said on Thursday.
The comments came after Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told the Turkish media that the reason for the deadlock in compensation talks with Israel over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident was that Jerusalem was not willing to admit that the compensation payment was the result of a wrongful act.
Up until now the assumption was that the two sides were not yet normalizing ties because they could not agree on the size of the compensation package, with the Turks demanding much more than Israel was willing to pay.
But Arinc, leading the Turkish team in the three rounds of talks that have already been held, said earlier this week that money was not the issue.
“In our first meeting [the Israelis] showed no opposition to this. But in the second meeting, they intended to give an ex gratia payment [one made without the giver recognizing any liability or legal obligation] as a form of reparation because they fear compensation [as a result of their wrongful act] will set an example for other cases, which is not a concern to us,” the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported him as saying.
On March 22, just as US President Barack Obama was leaving Israel after his visit and at his urging, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered an apology for any operational errors that might have led to the death of nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010.
“The amount of money is not the problem,” Arınc said.
“There are two problematic areas. The first one is that Israel should accept that it’s paying this money as a result of its wrongful act. Nothing less than this will be accepted. And second, we are waiting for them to realize our third condition of cooperating with Turkey is making life conditions easier for Palestinians. We are not talking about the amount of money as our first two conditions have not been met,” he added.
One Israeli official said that Arinc’s comments reveal that Ankara is not genuinely interested in settling the dispute over the Mavi Marmara with Israel, but rather the aim is to humiliate Jerusalem.
“All of a sudden he says the money is not the issue. Indeed, they want to bring us to our knees and read the text that they dictate to us.”
The official said that the formula for the apology was very carefully crafted, so as not to admit any Israeli legal culpability. Now, he said, this is no longer enough for the Turks. Regarding lifting the blockade on Gaza, Israel has made clear that it has no intention of doing so, and that it will ease restrictions there to the degree that the rocket and missile fire from the area into Israel stops.
One senior Israeli official, when asked several weeks ago about the Turks apparent adding on conditions before returning their ambassador to Israel, replied that “enough is enough,” implying that Israel did what it felt it had to do to try and improve the ties with Turkey, but would go no further.
One Israeli official said on Thursday that while there was US pressure in the past on Israel to make gestures to reconcile with Turkey, there are currently no such demands. Netanyahu did what the Americans expected him to do, the official said, and from their standpoint this whole episode should now be over.