A Turkish court decided Monday to indict ex-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and three other former senior military officials in a move one Israeli source labeled “the targeted killing of Israeli-Turkish ties.”
The Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported on its website Monday that a Turkish high criminal court accepted an indictment seeking life sentences for Ashkenazi, former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin, former Israeli navy head Eliezer Marom and former IAF intelligence head Avishai Levy for attempted premeditated murder and causing injury for their involvement in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
May 31 will mark the second anniversary of the Mavi Marmara episode, and rather than facing another flotilla offensive to mark the day – as was threatened last year – this time Israel is facing Turkish legal action. IDF commandos killed nine Turkish citizens in a clash aboard the Mavi Marmara ship, which they boarded to prevent it from breaking the naval blockade of Gaza.
Israel has not received any formal notification of the indictment, and as a result had no official comment on Monday.
Nevertheless, one official – who said the decision to go forward with the indictment came from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – said the move represented a dramatic worsening in Israeli-Turkish ties.
The official denied recent media reports about a “thawing” of the tension between the two countries, and dismissed a report that Erdogan had sent an emissary here recently to look for ways out of the impasse.
The “envoy” who arrived was a Turkish –Jewish businessman who was not on a mission from Erdogan, the official said.
Ashkenazi responded to the report of the indictment by saying he hoped common sense would prevail and Turkey would reestablish diplomatic ties with Israel.
“From the beginning of the affair, I appeared before every forum, sometimes on my own, to defend IDF soldiers who performed their job out in the field on behalf of Israel,” Ashkenazi said. “If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey – I am willing to pay that price.”
Turkey is demanding Israel apologize for the incident, pay compensation and lift the blockade of Gaza. Israel has said it was willing to express “regret” and pay compensation to the families of victims, but it was not going to let Turkey dictate its policy toward Gaza.
The UN Palmer Commission that investigated the incident concluded that the naval blockade was legal, although it took Israel to task for using what it said was excessive force. Israel’s Terkel Committee found that the military had acted appropriately.
The Turkish media said that the indictment was spread over 144 pages and was prepared after testimony from some 600 people, including 490 passengers from the sixship flotilla and relatives of those who had died.
Today’s Zaman said that this indictment – with the prosecutor seeking up to 18,032 years for those indicted – was only against the senior military echelon, and that another indictment against the soldiers who actually participated was in the works.
Irit Kahan, the former head of the international division in the State Attorney’s Office, told Army Radio that the findings of the Palmer Commission would likely render the Turkish indictment meaningless, because even if the Turks did issue an international arrest warrant, most countries were unlikely to enforce it when a UN commission said Israel acted within its rights.
“I don’t think it is serious,” Kahan said, adding that even in countries in Europe where Israel has problematic relations it was hard to believe the authorities would make arrests for an action which a UN commission ruled was essentially legitimate.
The indictment is not “pleasant,” she said, adding – however – that since it was so “extreme,” it also “doesn’t look serious.”
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.