Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s telephone conversation with Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the start of the process of improving
Israeli-Turkish ties, not the end of it, a government official said on
The official’s comments came as Erdogan continued boasting of
Israel’s apology, and as the Ankara Municipality erected billboards thanking
Erdogan for upholding Turkish pride.
“The phone call gives us the
potential to have a more positive relationship,” the Israeli official said. “But
you have to have patience.”
The Turkish Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan
Tuesday as saying that Israel may have mistakenly thought the Mavi Marmara
incident would be forgotten.
But this time, he was quoted as saying, “the
Israelis met with a different understanding and structure. The AK Party
government did not remain silent against this illegality, aggressiveness and
He went on to add, “The Israeli apology was important in
remembering the martyrs of Turkey and those of Palestine.”
in Ankara read, “Israel apologized to Turkey. Dear prime minister, we are
grateful that you let our country experience this pride.”
The words were
superimposed over pictures of a confident Erdogan and a tired, gloomy-looking
Hurriyet reported that Erdogan, speaking at a party meeting
Tuesday, said that Turkey had constantly given Israel three conditions for
ending the Mavi Marmara crisis: an apology, compensation payment, and lifting
the blockade of Gaza.
“They wanted to express sorrow, but we said no. We
wanted the word apology,” Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as saying.
‘Isn’t it enough if we pay?’ We said no.”
During the Netanyahu-Erdogan
phone call, which came at Ben-Gurion Airport as US President Barack Obama was
about to board Air Force One to leave the country, Netanyahu apologized for any
operational mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury during
the operation to commandeer the Mavi Marmara.
The timing of the apology
was carefully considered, The Jerusalem Post has learned, and it was done during
Obama’s visit to make it seem like a gesture to the US president and thereby
make it easier to sell to the Israeli public.
Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni spoke Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whom she has
known for years, about ending the crisis in Israeli-Turkish ties. According to a
Livni spokeswoman, the two did not discuss operational issues such as the
compensation package Israel is to pay the families of the nine Turks killed on
Technical teams that will discuss this issue – the Israeli team
led by Joseph Ciechanover and the Turkish one by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary
Feridun Sinirlioglu, a former ambassador to Israel – are expected to begin
meetings this week. In past negotiations between the two countries over the
compensation issue, the idea was for Israel to pay directly into a Turkish fund
set up for the families, and not to the families individually.
Erdogan’s remarks, Davutoglu was quoted in Turkish media Tuesday as telling
reporters at an Arab League meeting in Doha, “We had three conditions for
normalization of relations, which were an apology, compensation, and the lifting
of the blockade. As you know, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu officially
apologized and said the necessary steps will be taken and the blockade will be
This, however, was at odds with the Israeli statements that
followed the conversation.
Furthermore, National Security Council head
Yaakov Amidror said Sunday that Israel had no intention of lifting the blockade
Even though Erdogan spoke again Tuesday about the possibility of
visiting Gaza and the West Bank to “monitor” whether Israel was implementing its
commitment to ease the blockade, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arznc held
open the possibility that the visit might not take place as planned.
visit by our prime minister to Gaza in April is on the agenda, but it may not be
possible as well. This possibility should also be taken into consideration,” he
cautioned at a press conference after a regular meeting of the Turkish cabinet
on Monday evening.
According to the Today’s Zaman website, Erdogan said
he would visit Gaza and the West Bank with Turkish relief organizations to
monitor the humanitarian situation there.
Erdogan has said several times
in the past that he would visit Gaza, but those visits never materialized,
partly because of US pressure on him not to do so.
Ariel Ben Solomon
contributed to this report.