US-Pakistan apology may yield Israel-Turkey detente

Gov't official: Israel ready for rapprochement after US apology to Pakistan over accidental killing of soldiers sets precedent.

Mavi Marmara le 26 décembre 2010 (photo credit: Reuters)
Mavi Marmara le 26 décembre 2010
(photo credit: Reuters)
Efforts to find a way to bring about a turnaround in Israel’s relationship with Turkey are continuing, and Jerusalem views this as an important goal, an Israeli government official said on Tuesday.
The official’s comments came within the context of Washington’s apology on Tuesday to Islamabad for the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Pakistan had demanded an apology, and when Washington refused, it closed NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
According to a State Department statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that “we are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.” She also said “we are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
This has relevance to the Turkish demand for an Israeli apology over the Mavi Marmara raid because last month Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman cited the US refusal to apologize to Pakistan when discussing Israel’s refusal to apologize to the Turks.
Nine Turks were killed in May 2010 when they clashed with IDF troops while trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
If the US adamantly refuses to apologize to Pakistan for the accidental killing of two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November, Israel certainly need not say sorry to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara deaths, Liberman said at a conference in Eilat. He also said Israel should not hesitate to make this position clear to Washington.
US officials have said in various forums that they believed it was in the interest of everyone – Israel, Turkey, the US and the region – for Jerusalem to find a way to apologize to Ankara.
“The Pakistanis asked the US to apologize, and the Americans said ‘no way,’” Liberman said. “So when they come to us and pressure us to apologize over the Marmara, because of this or that constraint, sometimes even to best friends you must say ‘no.’ Otherwise, no one will respect you.”
Asked whether, according to this logic, the fact that the US had apologized to the Pakistanis meant that Israel was now re-thinking its position regarding Ankara, one government official said that “Israel is ready for a rapprochement with Turkey, which is in the mutual interest of both sides.” But, he said, it will take both sides to make it happen.
According to one diplomatic official, Israel and Turkey reached an agreement last summer, before the publication of the UN’s Palmer Commission report, whereby Israel would issue a mutually agreed upon apology along the lines of “we apologize if human errors were committed.” Israel also agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims, and consent to the UN burying the Palmer report, which found that Israel acted within its legal rights in stopping the flotilla.
Turkey, for its part, agreed to return diplomatic relations to what they were before the flotilla, end all legal claims against Israel deriving from the incident, and agree to consider the matter closed.
The official said the deal was scuttled when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan added another condition – that Israel lift the blockade of Gaza – and also when Ankara made clear that while the government would have no more legal claims against Israel, it could not stop individual citizens from pursing the matters in the Turkish courts.