Dan Meridor 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor cautioned Turkey on Friday that it was bound by international law in its challenge to an Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, but stressed that Israel was not interested in a war of words with its once-close ally.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday set the stage for a potential naval confrontation, declaring that Turkish warships would escort future convoys to the Gaza Strip.
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"The things Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said are harsh and serious, but I don't think it would be right to get into any verbal sabre-rattling with him," Meridor told Army Radio. "Our silence is the best response. I hope this phenomenon will pass.”
Ankara downgraded diplomatic relations and vowed to boost naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean after Israel refused to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks in a commando raid on the Mavi Marmara as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza.
Meridor also said that an inquiry commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had vindicated Israel's blockade, calling it a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from reaching the coastal territory.
"Turkey, which claims that Israel is not above international law, needs to understand that neither is it (above international law). A UN committee has determined that the blockade is legal," he said.
The UN committee also called Israel's use of force in the 2010 raid "excessive and unreasonable", saying the loss of life had been "unacceptable". Israel expressed regrets for the deaths.
But as the deputy premier called for a calm and measured attitude, daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot
reported Friday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is planning a series of retribution measures against Turkey. These would include a travel advisory warning Israelis, especially those who served in the IDF, against visits to Turkey; strengthening of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey, including the supply of arms; cooperation with the Armenians, Turkey's historical rivals; and diplomatic warfare against Turkey in the international community.
Following the Yediot
report, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “must show responsibility and not allow the adding of fuel to the fire with Turkey.”
"Between apologizing and deteriorating the situation there is some space, and that should be filled with practical, responsible and balanced actions that will stabilize and improve the situation between the nations,” Livni said. “A competition for who can shout the loudest is not good for Israel.”
The United States has been hoping to ease tensions between its two main allies in the Middle East.
Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, told Israel Radio: "We are encouraging both countries to find a way to work together to overcome their differences and restore at least some of the friendship that they previously had."
Earlier this week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel and Turkey will eventually mend fences rather than become foes, describing the spat over Gaza as "spilled milk."