Efforts to find a way to bring about a turnaround in Israel’s relationship with
Turkey are continuing, and Jerusalem views this as an important goal, an Israeli
government official said on Tuesday.
The official’s comments came within
the context of Washington’s apology on Tuesday to Islamabad for the accidental
killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Pakistan had demanded an
apology, and when Washington refused, it closed NATO supply routes to
According to a State Department statement, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton told Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that “we are sorry
for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.” She also said “we are
committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from
ever happening again.”
This has relevance to the Turkish demand for an
Israeli apology over the Mavi Marmara raid because last month Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman cited the US refusal to apologize to Pakistan when discussing
Israel’s refusal to apologize to the Turks.
Nine Turks were killed in May
2010 when they clashed with IDF troops while trying to break Israel’s blockade
of the Gaza Strip.
If the US adamantly refuses to apologize to Pakistan
for the accidental killing of two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November, Israel
certainly need not say sorry to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara deaths, Liberman
said at a conference in Eilat. He also said Israel should not hesitate to make
this position clear to Washington.
US officials have said in various
forums that they believed it was in the interest of everyone – Israel, Turkey,
the US and the region – for Jerusalem to find a way to apologize to
“The Pakistanis asked the US to apologize, and the Americans said
‘no way,’” Liberman said. “So when they come to us and pressure us to apologize
over the Marmara, because of this or that constraint, sometimes even to best
friends you must say ‘no.’ Otherwise, no one will respect you.”
whether, according to this logic, the fact that the US had apologized to the
Pakistanis meant that Israel was now re-thinking its position regarding Ankara,
one government official said that “Israel is ready for a rapprochement with
Turkey, which is in the mutual interest of both sides.” But, he said, it will
take both sides to make it happen.
According to one diplomatic official,
Israel and Turkey reached an agreement last summer, before the publication of
the UN’s Palmer Commission report, whereby Israel would issue a mutually agreed
upon apology along the lines of “we apologize if human errors were committed.”
Israel also agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims, and
consent to the UN burying the Palmer report, which found that Israel acted
within its legal rights in stopping the flotilla.
Turkey, for its part,
agreed to return diplomatic relations to what they were before the flotilla, end
all legal claims against Israel deriving from the incident, and agree to
consider the matter closed.
The official said the deal was scuttled when
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan added another condition – that
Israel lift the blockade of Gaza – and also when Ankara made clear that while
the government would have no more legal claims against Israel, it could not stop
individual citizens from pursing the matters in the Turkish courts.