Lieberman goes on offensive against Turkey

FM accuses Erdogan, Davutuglu of spreading lies; says Turkey's demand for flotilla apology is "beyond chutzpa."

By
December 26, 2010 16:43
4 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (do not publish again). (photo credit: Flash 90)

In the harshest public words by an Israeli minister toward Turkey in months, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that Ankara’s demand for an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident is “beyond chutzpa.”

“There will be no apologies, and if so, we’re waiting for one from Turkey,” Lieberman said at an annual gathering of Israel’s ambassadors and counsel-generals at the Foreign Ministry. Ankara needed to apologize for its cooperation with terrorists, such as the IHH – which organized the violent incident aboard the Mavi Marmara – Hamas and Hizbullah, he said.

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Lieberman characterized as “lies” and “false promises” comments recently made by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Lieberman was especially angered by remarks Davutoglu made over the weekend that it would have taken Israel days to make the decision to send the kind of help to Turkey that Ankara dispatched during the Carmel forest fire.

Lieberman reminded the forum that in 1999, when a major earthquake hit Turkey, Israel immediately dispatched a 240-person delegation to spend weeks extracting people from the debris and giving them medical attention.

Davutoglu, at a press conference in Istanbul on Saturday, said coalition rivalries within the government were leading to “conflicting signals” from Jerusalem and making a normalization of ties difficult.

Turkey is demanding that Israel apologize for killing nine Turkish men on the Mavi Marmara as it tried to break the blockade of Gaza, and pay compensation to the families of the dead. Efforts to find a formula that would be acceptable to both sides and pave the way to restoring ties began shortly after Turkey sent two planes to help put out the Carmel fire, but soon hit a dead end.

Davutoglu said it took “about two minutes” for Turkey to decide to send planes to Israel to help douse the Carmel fire, but that if the situation had been reversed, Israel – because of its coalition – would have needed days to send help.

Referring to Davutoglu’s comments, Lieberman said that they “say something about the nature of the people we have to deal with.

“What I am not willing to tolerate,” Lieberman said “is all kinds of lies and false promises that we hear from time to time, also from the prime minister [Erdogan] who visits Lebanon and threatens Israel that he will not sit with folded arms, and I also heard last night all the lies and false promises of the Turkish foreign minister.”

Erdogan, on a visit to Lebanon last month, said Turkey would not remain silent in the event of an Israeli attack on Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.

“Does [Israel] think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?” Erdogan asked on the final day of a two-day visit.

Lieberman’s comments were a marked departure from the government’s policy up until now, which was that government ministers would not respond publicly to the acerbic rhetoric coming from Ankara so as not to make a bad situation even worse.

Lieberman said that the deterioration in ties with Ankara was not a result of anything Israel did, but rather the symptom of fundamental changes taking place inside Turkish society.

Israel did not begin the deterioration in ties with Turkey, and if Turkey did indeed want normal relations with Israel, Ankara would do well to make as few declarations as possible and to stop giving Israel advice about “what to do and how to do it, and first arrange things [at] home,” he said.

Lieberman’s comments came on the same day that some 10,000 people welcomed the Mavi Marmara back to Istanbul. Hundreds of balloons were released as the ship sailed into Istanbul’s Sarayburnu port, following repairs at a port on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The activists, mostly members of pro-Islamic groups, waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted “Down with Israel” and “Allah is Great” as they greeted the vessel. Protesters also boarded boats to welcome the approaching ship, which was adorned with a poster of the nine Turks killed during the raid.

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog took issue with Lieberman’s comments, issuing a statement saying that as foreign minister Lieberman does not understand that his job was to “open doors,” not slam them shut.

Herzog said that Davutoglu’s comments in their entirety showed that he was interested in reconciliation with Israel and indicated that a “window of opportunity has been opened to renew relations between the two countries.”

Herzog said Israel did not have the “privilege” to miss this opportunity, even if it “demands Israeli flexibility,” and that a way to repair ties with Turkey needed to be found, even if it entailed “bypassing” Lieberman.

Delaying a repair of ties with Turkey, as well as “a lack of determination in implementing a two-state agreement, harms Israel and puts it at a diplomatic disadvantage,” Herzog said.


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