Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman locked horns with his Turkish counterpart on
Wednesday over the issue of an Israeli apology for the Mavi Marmara affair, with
Lieberman saying an apology was not in the offing, and Ahmet Davutoglu demanding
it as a condition for a resumption of normal ties.
“As far as we’re
concerned, there is no reason to apologize,” Lieberman said in a meeting of the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on Wednesday. “Turkey
wants to give the impression that they can dictate terms, and we’ll accept them
as if they’re a superpower. It’s a matter of honor to them.”
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minister told the Knesset committee that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan “has a desire to turn Turkey into a regional superpower with
Lieberman’s comments came as Strategic Affairs
Minister Moshe Ya’alon was reportedly on his way back to Israel from New York,
where he was trying to work out a formula with Turkish Foreign Ministry
Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu to put an end to the Mavi Marmara
before the Palmer Commission (the UN commission charged with investigating the
incident) released its findings.
The committee – which is headed by
former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and co-chaired by former
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, and includes an Israeli representative, Joseph Ciechanover, and a
Turkish official, Ozden Sanberk – was scheduled to issue its report on
The sides, according to officials, were unable to come up with
a formula by the deadline. As a result, German Ambassador to the UN Peter
Wittig, who is currently the president of the Security Council, said at a press
conference Wednesday he had no knowledge about when the report would be
“I don’t think we are yet at the point where the report would
be handed over – when that happens obviously we’ll let you know,” he
The outlines of the report have been known for weeks: that Israel’s
naval blockade was legal and the country acted within its rights in stopping the
flotilla, but that the IDF used “excessive” force in the incident in which nine
Turks were killed after attacking soldiers who landed on the boat to enforce the
Turkey is asking that Israel pay compensation to the families
of those killed, and apologize for the incident.
While Israel has agreed
to pay compensation – on condition that it goes into a government fund and not
directly to the families of those who attacked IDF soldiers, and that there will
be no further claims against the soldiers – Jerusalem has refused to apologize,
saying it will instead express regret at the loss of life.
its part, is reportedly asking the Turks to commit not to break the Gaza
blockade, and issue some kind of clarification about the unacceptability of
attacking IDF soldiers.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking
Wednesday in Bucharest at a press conference with his Romanian counterpart Emil
Boc, said Israel was interested in good relations with Turkey.
not the ones who led to a deterioration of the ties,” he said. “We are
interested and open to finding ways to improve the relations. We noticed that
Turkey did not take part in the latest flotilla, and we also noticed other signs
that are perhaps enabling other attempts at bringing us
Netanyahu said Israel had two clear interests: to enforce the
blockade of the Gaza Strip to prevent the smuggling of arms and ammunitions to
terrorists, and to protect its own soldiers.
“We are interested in
improving relations with Turkey, and we are trying to maintain the interests I
enumerated. Now the effort is to get these goals to meet. Until now, we
have not succeeded, but we are still trying.”
Netanyahu said it was
important that the formula reached will include the recognition of the legality
of the blockade, and the protection of IDF soldiers.
to reporters after the closed-door Knesset committee meeting, said “an apology
is not a compromise – it is a humiliation and an abandonment of IDF soldiers. We
regret the loss of life of people from any nation. There are things we can
discuss [with Turkey] and things we cannot. We cannot discuss things that will
“National honor has a real significance. We expect
flexibility on the Turkish side, as well,” Lieberman added. “We have no reason
for friction with Turkey. We are willing to make compromises, but we are
not willing to accept dictates, and we are not willing to abandon IDF
soldiers.”Gil Shefler and Reuters contributed to this report.