National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said on Sunday that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on
Friday did not obligate Israel to end the blockade of Gaza as the Turks had
demanded, and it could clamp down harder on the Palestinian enclave if it needed
to because of security considerations.
Through a telephone meeting
brokered by US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologized for operational
errors that may have led to the loss of life on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in
Following the conversation, Erdogan said Israel had met his demands
to apologize for killing nine Turks aboard the ship, pay compensation to those
bereaved or hurt and lift the blockade by allowing in more consumer
That fell well short, however, of an end to the blockade – which
Erdogan had routinely insisted on during the almost three-year-old rift as a
condition for rapprochement.
Erdogan, meanwhile, told a crowd of
supporters on Sunday that normalization of ties would only take place if Israel
implemented the conditions of the deal discussed in the conversation with
Netanyahu. The only firm condition mentioned in the statement following that
conversation was payment of compensation.
“If there is quiet, the
processes easing the lives of Gazan residents will continue. And if there
is Katyusha fire, then these moves will be slowed and even stopped and, if
necessary, even reversed,” Amidror said on Army Radio.
“We did not agree to promise that under any condition we
would continue to transfer all the things into Gaza and ease up on the residents
of Gaza if there is shooting from there,” Amidror added. “We do not intend to
give up on our right to respond to what happens in Gaza because of the agreement
with the Turks.”
Defense official Amos Gilad said the blockade on Gaza
was still very necessary.
“We have nothing against the Palestinian
people. The maritime blockade derives from security considerations only, as
terrorist groups can smuggle huge amounts of weaponry by sea,” Gilad told Army
Another official told Reuters that Hamas was still trying to bring
in arms, and that this made “the blockade as necessary as
Netanyahu convened his new, trimmed down security cabinet for
the first time on Sunday, amid growing tension along the Syrian border, the
beginnings of reconciliation with Turkey, and following Obama’s trip to the
According to law, the security cabinet – where top national
security decisions are discussed and often voted on – can be as large as half of
the cabinet, meaning Netanyahu could have appointed another six ministers to the
six who the law mandates must be members of the forum.
He chose, however,
to only add two members, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit
Yehudi) and Communications and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud
The previous security cabinet numbered 15 members, with another
four observers, making the body unwieldy for serious discussion and
As a result, Netanyahu set up a smaller, informal forum
of variously seven and eight ministers as his major consultative body on these
It appears he will not set up a similar “kitchen cabinet” this
time, and instead rely on the smaller security cabinet.
In addition to
Netanyahu, the other five ministers who must be part of the forum are Defense
Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud Beytenu), Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu), Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), and the foreign minister, who has still not yet
been named, but which is being reserved for Avigdor Liberman (Likud
The ministers heard security briefings at Sunday’s
Among the top issues on the security cabinet's agenda is the
situation in Syria, which spilled over across Israel’s border on Sunday when an
IDF jeep was fired on and the army returned fire.
said that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria was already having an
enormous impact on both Jordan and Turkey, and the possible use of chemical
weapons there last week had significantly altered the entire
The issue is of major concern not only to Israel, Jordan and
Turkey, but also to the US which wants to be able to sit down with its regional
allies and cooperate and share intelligence.
This, the official said, was
behind the US determination to see an improvement in Israeli-Turkish
Following last Thursday’s firing of rockets into the western Negev
from Gaza during Obama’s visit, Israel responded by closing the Kerem Shalom
cargo terminal crossing with Gaza and restricting the Strip’s fishing area to
three miles – rather than six miles – from the coast.Reuters contributed
to this report.