The security cabinet met in a special session Sunday night, and among the issues
expected to have been addressed were ways to “defuse the tension and contain the
crisis” with Turkey following Friday’s release of the UN Palmer report and
Israel’s refusal to apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident.
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government official, explaining a discussion of the crisis at the security
cabinet level, said that the crisis with Turkey was now “only
No statement was released after the meetings.
ministers, however, were expected to discuss the veiled Turkish threats to break
the naval blockade of Gaza by promising to ensure freedom of maritime travel in
the eastern Mediterranean, as well as support for legal actions expected to be
launched with Turkish government backing against IDF soldiers and officers who
participated in the Mavi Marmara raid.
In addition, Jerusalem is now
bracing for the possibility that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
might carry through with a threat he has been issuing for months to visit Gaza
from Egypt. He is reportedly going to visit Egypt in
Israeli officials said that a Gaza trip for Erdogan would
be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he would be welcomed as a hero in
Gaza, but on the other hand, meetings he would almost certainly have there with
Hamas leaders would place him at odds both with the US and with the Palestinian
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at a meeting of Likud
ministers before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, said that while the Palmer Commission
report gave Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip “strong support,” and said it
was “very positive from our point of view,” he said “it is not the end, the
story is still continuing.
“We don’t want to see a deterioration of ties
with Turkey,” he said, “but they are choosing differently.”
government official predicted that following the expulsion of Israel’s
ambassador from Ankara, and Turkey’s hints about breaking the naval blockade,
the US would be more energetically involved in solving the crisis between its
two allies. While the US did try to push both Israel and Turkey into resolving
the issue before the formal presentation of the Palmer report on Friday, now –
the official said – it is likely to get involved with a greater sense of
Netanyahu said that over the last few months some workable ideas
for resolving the conflict were put forward, but they were not accepted by the
Turkish side. He did not elaborate.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting,
Netanyahu said publicly for the first time that Israel would not apologize to
the Turks, even while reiterating that Israel regretted the loss of life in the
incident. Nine Turks were killed when IDF commandos stopped the Mavi Marmara
from breaking the naval blockade of Gaza.
Netanyahu said the Palmer
report “unequivocally determined that Israel acted according to international
law during the Mavi Marmara incident.
The commission determined what we
knew from the outset – that Israel has the full and basic right to defend
“We need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended
their lives against an assault by violent IHH activists,” he said. “We need not
apologize for the fact that we acted to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas,
a terrorist organization that has already fired over 10,000 missiles, rockets
and mortar rounds at our civilians. We need not apologize for the fact that we
acted to defend our people, our children and our communities.”
said to the IDF commandos that “just as you and the rest of the IDF defend us,
we will defend you everywhere and in every forum.
With that I reiterate
again that Israel expresses regret over the loss of life. I also hope that a way
will be found to overcome the disagreement with Turkey.
Israel has never
wanted deterioration in its relations with Turkey; neither is Israel interested
in such a deterioration now.”
Because of the sensitivity of the issue,
Netanyahu asked his ministers not to talk publicly about
Meanwhile, in very interesting timing and a move that could be
interpreted as Israel’s own signal to Ankara, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who
was the leading voice inside Netanyahu’s inner circle calling for a rapprochement with Turkey – signed a
security cooperation agreement Sunday with Panagiotis Beglitis, the visiting
defense minister from Greece, Turkey’s historic rival.
“We welcome the
Greek Defense Minister and thanked the Greek government for their rapid
assistance during the Carmel fire,” Barak said at the end of the
“We’re pleased with the strengthened relationship between Greece
and Israel in all aspects, including defense.”
Barak said that the
Israeli and Greek nations are “ancient nations that provided the world with
culture. Looking ahead, the nations expect to see a deepening of the cooperation
between the two governments, defense ministries and peoples.”
to Barak, the security cooperation agreement represents future cooperation with
the Greek government. “Both Greece and Israel are undergoing a difficult period
in the world and I believe we view each other positively.”
put out by the IDF said that in recent years it has trained with a number of
foreign armies, and that recently the cooperation between the Greek Army and the
IDF has grown significantly.
Last June, the IAF participated in a
joint-training exercise with the Greek Air Force in Greece using UH-60 Black
Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.
In a related development,
Sunday night’s security cabinet meeting was also expected to deal with who would
foot the bill to equip Israeli passenger planes with defensive equipment against
missiles fired from the ground. While Netanyahu has said that the Treasury would
allocate funds for this purpose, El Al reportedly complained that the money for
the project was not being released.