Israel is not ready to apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals aboard the Mavi Marmara last year, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday for the second day in a row ahead of an expected United Nations report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. Ya'alon, however, added that such a decision may be debated in Jerusalem and that the doubt he has expressed in recent days was his own.

"We are not ready to apologize, as apology, actually, is taking responsibility. You know, our soldiers on the Mavi Marmara were fighting to defend their lives," Ya'alon told foreign journalists.

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Asked whether Israel might change tack, Ya'alon allowed that apologizing to Turkey "might be a debate" in the government and said his demurral was his personal opinion.

"We still have six days" to decide, he said, referring to the announcement that the inquiry set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer would publish its findings on July 27.

On Wednesday, Ya'alon told Israel Radio that the “golden era” of Israeli- Turkish ties will not return – even if Israel apologizes for the Mavi Marmara incident.

Ya’alon, who in recent weeks led three rounds of talks with the Turks in an effort to find a formula that would bring closure to last year’s flotilla incident, indicated in the interview that Jerusalem felt no pressure to reach an agreement with Turkey before former the Palmer report is issued.

“Turkish stubbornness is preventing us from bridging the gaps, and therefore it is good that Palmer will release his report on July 27, and then we will meet,” Ya’alon said.

The UN-commissioned report is widely believed to uphold the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, as well as the right of Israel to stop the flotilla – while taking the IDF to task for using excessive force in stopping the Mavi Marmara.

The report is also believed to highlight Turkish government links with the flotilla, which resulted in the death of nine Turks when IDF commandos were attacked while boarding the ship.

The Turks are demanding an Israeli apology for the incident and compensation payments to the family of the victims, as well as a lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Ya’alon said that while Israel agreed to express regret for the loss of lives, it would not apologize.

There is a huge difference, he said, because an apology means taking responsibility for the action.

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