Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Tuesday that the Foreign Ministry's legal department is checking the possibility that the four former Israeli military commanders indicted in Turkey for their role in the Mavi Marmara raid could be arrested if they enter countries who have extradition agreements with Turkey.
The indictment seeks nine counts of aggravated life imprisonment for former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Israel Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former IAF intelligence head Brig.-Gen. Avishai Levy. Relations between the regional powers deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara aid vessel in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board the ship.
Speaking in an interview with Channel 10, Ayalon said that he was doubtful that the indictments would endanger the freedom of the former Israeli commanders in other countries. "They probably cannot visit Turkey, but I believe they can visit other countries. This seems more of a political step than a legal step," he said.
Ayalon posited that the Turkish move to indict Israeli commanders contradicts international law and international maritime law. "A step like this can set a dangerous precedent, even for the US Armed Forces and NATO forces that also board ships in the middle of the sea suspected of involvement in terror, piracy or shipping illegal cargo," the deputy foreign minister stated, adding that he envisaged heavy political pressure on Turkey to drop the issue.
Ayalon emphasized that much of the information the Foreign Ministry had was based on media reports and the Turkish government had not formally informed Jerusalem of the indictments.
"If these reports are true, we are talking about an unexplainable and bad turn of events. I hope that they will regain their composure, because this behavior serves no one's interests."
Former IDF chief Ashkenazi said Monday in response to the indictments that he hoped common sense would prevail, but added, "If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey - I am willing to pay that price."
Yaakov Katz Contributed to this report.