mavi marmara passengers 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
The planned release Wednesday of the UN’s Palmer Commission report on the Mavi
Marmara has been postponed for about a month to allow Israel and Turkey to find
a formula to renew full diplomatic ties and obviate the need to release the
report, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said Sunday night.
the officials, the report – which was to be submitted to UN Secretary- General
Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday – will now not be submitted until the end of August.
The report was originally to be released on May 15, but was postponed at
Turkey’s request. And then again on July 7, another day that came and went
without its release.
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The report – whose details have been widely reported
– upholds the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, but takes
the IDF to task for using disproportionate force in enforcing the
Turkey is keen to bury the report, because while far from being
a pro-Israel document, by upholding the legality of the blockade it places some
of the responsibility for the flotilla fiasco on Turkey’s
Turkey is demanding Israel apologize for the incident, pay
compensation to the families of the victims, and lift the blockade of
Israel has so far refused to apologize, although there is
discussion about Israel apologizing for “operational mishaps” that led to the
loss of lives. Nine Turkish citizens were killed on the Mavi Marmara when some
of the passengers on the ship attacked IDF commandos who landed on it to enforce
An Israeli refusal to apologize to the Turks will not only
result in Turkish wrath, but also US anger, diplomatic officials said Sunday,
explaining that the US is pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to accept
a formula that would allow Israeli-Turkish relations to return to
The US, these officials said, see Israeli-Turkish
cooperation as an important element in the Middle East, and one they are very
keen to renew.
According to the officials, the US wants Netanyahu to back
a formula that would include the following elements: an apology for “operational
mishaps” in the Mavi Marmara incident that resulted in the loss of Turkish
lives, a willingness to pay compensation through a fund to be set up by the
Turkish government, a Turkish commitment that this ends the story and there will
be no legal claims against Israel, the soldiers or officers involved and an agreement to bury the Palmer Commission report.
the release of the report will give the sides more time to come to an agreement
on an acceptable formula. The postponement will also make unnecessary, for the
time being, a meeting of Netanyahu’s inner forum of eight senior ministers to
discuss the formula.
Among those ministers, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz, Bennie Begin and Interior Minister Eli Yishai are all believed to be
opposed to an apology. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence Agencies
Minister Dan Meridor in favor, and Netanyahu’s position is not
Lieberman said before Sunday’s cabinet meeting that an improvement
in ties with Turkey was in the interest of both sides. He said Israel did not
need to apologize, but also added that if the cabinet decided against his point
of view this would not lead Israel Beiteinu to bolt the coalition.
said Sunday, before the postponement of the Palmer Commission report was made
known, that he hoped Israel would not have to respond this week, and that there
would be more time to work out a formula.
Barak said Israel’s decision
needed to be weighed while considering the obligation to defend the “dignity of
the state” and justness of the blockade, together with an interest in protecting
the officers and soldiers involved in the operation from the possibility of
legal action abroad.
One of the reasons that has been broached for
issuing some kind of apology was that it would be within the framework of a
Turkish agreement, which means as a result, there would be no future legal
claims against the state or the soldiers.
In a related development, the
economic cabinet is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss granting visas to 860
Turkish construction workers in the country. These visas were granted in 2003 as
part of a package that included the upgrading of Turkish tanks by
Both Netanyahu and Barak are reportedly involved in the
discussions, and it is expected that the visas will be extended.