The different approaches inside the government to Ankara’s demand for an apology over May 2010’s Mavi Marmara incident became public on Monday, with Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon calling the Turkish demand “chutzpah,” and Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor saying that relations could be repaired if both sides demonstrated “wisdom.”
Both Ya’alon and Meridor are members of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner forum of eight senior ministers that has been discussing the Turkish demand for weeks. The forum met again on Sunday to discuss the issue, without reaching any final conclusion.
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Ya’alon, in an Israel Radio interview, said the Mavi Marmara flotilla was a provocation for which Turkey bears responsibility. While Israel was sorry for the loss of life – nine Turkish men were killed – Ya’alon dismissed as “chutzpah” Turkish demands that Israel apologize, pay compensation to the families of the dead and lift the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“I am opposed in principle to meeting these demands,” he said.
The UN committee that investigated the incident – the Palmer Commission –
is set to release its findings publicly on August 20. The release of
the report has been pushed back on a number of occasions to enable the
sides to work out a formula that would obviate the need for the report,
which has already been presented to UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.
Ya’alon’s position is that the report – which reportedly upholds the
legality of the naval blockade and the interception of vessels trying to
block it, while taking the IDF to task for a disproportionate use of
force – should be released.
He raised doubts that an apology would improve relations with Ankara,
saying the Turks were trying to “put Israel into a corner, and raise the
stature of Turkey in the eyes of the Arab world, Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Regarding Turkish threats not to return their ambassador to Tel Aviv –
withdrawn immediately after the incident – if an apology were not
forthcoming, Ya’alon said he was not willing to pay the price the Turks
were asking to get their envoy back.
Ya’alon’s comments dovetailed with statements Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman made on Sunday, in which he said he was completely opposed to
any type of apology.
Meridor, however, took a bit of a softer line, saying in an Israel Radio
interview that improved Israeli-Turkish ties were important for the
region, and that while an improvement was not only dependent on Israel,
if both sides showed “wisdom” a solution could be found.
Meridor characterized what happened on the ship as a “tragedy” that
Israel did not intend, adding – however – that the Israel Navy commandos
were attacked and then operated in a way that anyone would have acted
to save themselves.
In addition to Ya’alon and Lieberman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and
Ministerwithout- Portfolio Bennie Begin are believed to be against any
type of apology.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has come out forcefully in favor of finding a way to reconcile with Turkey, as has Meridor.
The positions of both Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, the
remaining members of the inner cabinet, are unclear, though in private
meetings Netanyahu has expressed doubts that an apology would
significantly improve relations with Ankara or stem Turkish legal action
against IDF soldiers who were involved in the incident.