Netanyahu to Kerry: Turkey deal to have 'immense' impact on Israeli economy

Ahead of expected formal announcement of detente, US secretary of state meets PM in Rome.

June 27, 2016 10:23
3 minute read.

PM Netanyahu meets US Secretary of State Kerry

PM Netanyahu meets US Secretary of State Kerry


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ROME - An agreement to normalize ties with Turkey after six years will have a positive impact on Israel's economy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Speaking after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said the agreement, announced by Israeli and Turkish officials on Sunday, was "an important step".

"It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly," he told reporters together with Kerry. Israeli officials have raised the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals once ties with Turkey were mended.

Kerry welcomed the agreement, saying, "We are obviously pleased in the administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen."

Israel and Turkey on Sunday reached agreement to end a rift over the Israeli navy's killing of 10 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who tried to breach the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010. A formal announcement of the deal, slated to stipulate Israel's conciliatory payment to the families of the victims killed in the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid, is expected later on Monday.

Meanwhile on Monday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said that reaching a detente with Turkey is an important diplomatic step for Israel, but paying monetary compensation for "those who attacked IDF soldiers is inconceivable."

"Every Hebrew mother should know that right-wing politicians will compensate her son's attackers," opposition head Isaac Herzog said on Monday.

"The deal with Turkey is part of the prime ministers pattern. He starts with grand claims, continues with promises and ends with surrendering," Herzog charged.

Herzog went on to criticize the government for the "apathy and indifference" it has shown to the families of the two IDF soldiers whose bodies have remained in Gaza since the 2014 war, and are protesting the deal.

Mk Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) came out in support of the proposed deal with Turkey, in direct contradiction of Herzog, stating that it is "extremely important for Israel and strengthens it's security."

As Israeli politicians reacted to the expected agreement, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz defended the looming detente between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Steinitz told Army Radio that from a moral standpoint Israel should pay compensation to the families of the 10 activists who were killed in the Mavi Marmara raid.

He asserted that Israel's expected agreement to compensate the victims' families with $21 million is worth the price when considering keeping the IDF soldiers involved in the incident from international criminal prosecution.

"It is feared that warrants for their [the IDF soldiers] arrest will be issued, in order to end the saga and protect the soldiers sent to thwart the flotilla, we must pay the amount to remove the threat," he told Army Radio, adding that such a move "is not pleasant but it is a moral obligation."

According to Steinitz, the compensation amount was set three years ago, however what hindered a deal from materializing was Turkey's refusal to drop its demand that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza.

On Sunday, MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said that the expected signing of the reconciliation deal implies that Israel admits to "murdering" the  activists on the Mavi Marmara flotilla.

Zoabi, who herself was on the flotilla, also said that the decision to pay $20 million to the families of the killed showed that the Tirkil commission, which investigated the incident was a "sham. She added that "the blockade on Gaza must end."

"The blockade kills. It is murder and must be stopped and those responsible for the blockade must be prosecuted in the [ICC] Hague," she said.

She decried the deal as not addressing the blockade and therefore urged for more flotillas to Gaza in the near future.

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