PM defends IDF officers indicted by Turkish court

Former No. 3 at Pentagon calls on Israel to act 'more strategically' and reconcile with Turkey.

May 29, 2012 21:29
2 minute read.
PM Netanyahu at INSS

PM Netanyahu at INSS_370. (photo credit: GPO)


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Israel’s hand extended in peace is not always responded to in kind by governments in the region, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in a cryptic reference to the Turkish court’s decision the day before to indict four former senior IDF officers.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv – headed by former military intelligence head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who was among those indicted by the Turkish courts – Netanyahu said he wanted to send a “very clear” message to IDF soldiers and officers that “the State of Israel will always stand at your side, everywhere and everyplace. You defended us, we will defend you. That is an important rule.”

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On Monday, a Turkish court decided to indict Yadlin, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and two other former senior officers for involvement in the Mavi Marmara incident last year that led to the killing of nine Turks attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Just minutes before Netanyahu spoke, Michele Flournoy, a senior official in the Pentagon before stepping down earlier this year, told the same forum that it was very important for “Israel to repair its relationship with Turkey.”

Flournoy, who played a key role in shaping US President Barack Obama’s national security policy, said Turkey was one of the strongest and most influential voices in the region, remained a close and valued NATO ally for the US and shared “our interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”

While acknowledging that she “understands that past events have made concrete steps toward reconciliation quite difficult,” Flournoy said that “if there is ever a time for Israel to rise above past differences and recriminations with Turkey, now is that time.

Israel must act more strategically, and I think there is tremendous opportunity to rebuild its partnership with Turkey, and with other partners where it can. This is really important at a time of such [regional] uncertainty.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, told visiting German President Joachim Gauck that the fact that Israel did not respond in kind to Turkey’s “provocations” did not mean it would allow Ankara to intimidate IDF soldiers operating according to the highest moral standards.

Liberman said that for the last number of years, Israel has conducted itself with “maximum restraint” in the face of Turkish provocations, a policy he said dated back to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s berating President Shimon Peres at a conference in Davos soon after Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

“But restraint does not mean that Israel will allow the intimidation of its officers and soldiers acting under the highest ethical standards, with full justification under international law, as determined by the UN’s Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara,” he said.

Liberman said he hoped European countries would not cooperate with Turkey regarding the “absurd charges” against the former IDF officers. He further said he expected Europe to call Turkey to order and not go along with the provocations of a NATO member state that has “lost its direction and acts contrary to accepted international rules.”

The foreign minister said Israel would continue to act responsibly and not be dragged into counterprovocations against Erdogan “out of concern for regional peace and stability.”

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