Israel slammed Turkey on Tuesday for its "show trial" of four former IDF commanders, including former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, for the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound ship.
The trial will further test relations between the one-time strategic allies.
"The opening of the 'kangaroo court' against Israeli military officials in Turkey demonstrates that there is no interest to repair relations on the part of Turkish authorities," Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman affirmed.
"Instead of cooperation with Israel to solve problems in our region, the Turkish authorities are creating more unnecessary conflicts and tensions. We have respect for Turkey and its citizens but we will not apologize for fulfilling our duty, defending Israeli citizens," he added.
Liberman concluded that the government would do "everything we can to defend the Israeli officials and all of our brave soldiers from 'Lawfare', the new combat used against them."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor likewise told AFP Tuesday that the Turkish trial "has nothing to do with law and justice."
"It's a propaganda showcase. The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel," Palmor said.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu MK Moshe Matalon launched a blistering attack on
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi for her participation in the Mavi Marmara ship.
"How can it be that in a
civilized country Haneen Zoabi is not taken to court for her actions
while in Turkey they hold a show trial against our commanders and
soldiers in absentia, after a just and necessary operation in the
defense of the State of Israel?" Matalon asked.
"It is good that we
acted, it's good that we refused to apologize to the Turks and it will
also be good if we take Zoabi and her partners in crime to court for
their support of terrorism and for harming our soldiers and commanders.
There is no doubt that the place of Zoabi and [Balad MK Jamal] Zahalka
is behind bars," he proclaimed.
Outside the courthouse in Turkey, several hundred people, many wearing the Arab keffiyeh headscarf around their necks adorned with the Turkish and Palestinian flags, gathered as witnesses and relatives of those killed in the raid began to arrive.
"Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!" the crowd chanted as others held up a banner with the words: "What is the difference? Hitler = Israel."
On a board erected outside the courthouse by IHH, the Islamic agency that owns the Mavi Marmara, protesters scribbled the slogans: "Israel, your end is near," "Down with Israel," "The revenge of our martyrs will be bitter."
Inside the courtroom, the presiding judge began hearing testimony from those who were aboard the flotilla during the 2010 raid. A total of 490 people, including activists and journalists, are expected to give evidence.
Relations between Jerusalem and what was once its only Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board.
The rift has continued despite US efforts to encourage a rapprochement between the two regional powers whose cooperation it needs to address changes sweeping the Middle East.
Israel and NATO member Turkey, which both border Syria, once shared intelligence information and conducted joint military exercises, cooperation which has since been cancelled.
A Turkish state prosecutor is seeking multiple life sentences for the now retired IDF officers over their involvement in the nine killings and the wounding of more than 50 others.
The indictment names Israel's former Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, former Air Force Commander Amos Yadlin and former head of Air Force intelligence Avishay Levi, seeking prison sentences of more than 18,000 years for each of them.
Among the charges listed in the 144-page indictment are "inciting murder through cruelty or torture" and "inciting injury with firearms."
A total of 490 people aboard the ship during the raid, including activists and journalists, are expected to give evidence. Normally barred from courtrooms, the trial will be officially recorded by television cameras, although proceedings are not expected to be broadcast.
Relations between Israel and Turkey hit a low when Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident released in September last year largely exonerated Israel.
That report was meant to encourage a rapprochement between the two countries but ultimately deepened the rift when it concluded Israel had used unreasonable force but that the blockade on Gaza was legal.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in July Israel and Turkey needed to repair their relationship, but attempts to rekindle the strategic relationship have failed.
Turkey has demanded a formal apology, compensation for victims and the families of the dead and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted.
Israel has voiced "regret," short of the full apology demanded, and has offered to pay into what it called a "humanitarian fund" through which casualties and relatives could be compensated.
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