PMO: Our policy is to prevent worsening ties with Turkey

Following reports that FM planning series of retribution measures against Turkey, PMO says gov't has discussed what to do in event of escalation.

September 9, 2011 19:10
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after Eilat attack 311. (photo credit: GPO / Avi Ohayon)

Following reports that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Turkey "must be punished," the Prime Minister's Office on Friday put out a statement saying that Israeli policy is now and always was to prevent a deterioration in ties with Turkey and calm down the tensions between the two countries.

"The prime minister and the government have discussed what to do in the event of an escalation, however a decision will be made only in the event that it is necessary," the statement said. "Israel acted and is acting responsibly and hopes that Turkey will do the same," the statement continued.

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Yediot Aharonot reported Friday that 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."

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.

"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 saber-rattling with him," Meridor told Army Radio. "Our silence is the best response. I hope this phenomenon will pass.”

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.

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."

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