Barak: Israel doesn't intend to deepen divide with Turkey

Defense minister responds to Lieberman's comments, says Turkey is important state; Ben-Eliezer calls on Netanyahu to stop him FM publicly expressing his own opinions.

Barak shooting blue gun smiling 311 (photo credit: Ariel Harmoni/ Defense Ministry)
Barak shooting blue gun smiling 311
(photo credit: Ariel Harmoni/ Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel's aim today is to normalize relations with Turkey and does not intend to deepen the divide that exists between the two countries.
During a visit to the Elbit Systems factory in Haifa, Barak said Turkey is an important state and Israel will not turn differences of opinion into disputes. 
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Barak was responding to comments made Sunday by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who, during an annual gathering of Israel’s ambassadors and counsel-generals, said that Ankara’s demand for an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident is “beyond chutzpa.”
Earlier on Monday Lieberman defended his right to his own opinion, and stood by comments he had made regarding Turkey the previous day.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Lieberman insisted that he is not a spokesman for the prime minister, and that he had spoken at a closed Foreign Ministry conference, where it is possible to raise different opinions.
Directly after the comments were made on Sunday, the Prime Minister's Office released a reaction, saying that only Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu represents the government's stance.
"The foreign minister's words reflect his understandings and personal opinions, as the various ministers in the government differ in opinion from one another," the PMO statement explained. "The government's position is only the one expressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."
Also Monday, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer criticized Lieberman, saying he should not be representing the government. Speaking to Israel Radio, Ben-Eliezer said that Netanyahu should stop him from publicly expressing his own opinions which are not those of the government.
The Labor minister emphasized that while he doesn't believe Israel should apologize to the Turks for the raid of the Mavi Marmara, maintaining good relations with the government in Ankara is in Israel's best strategic interests.
Also speaking Monday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that Netanyahu is not correct in saying that the foreign minister does not represent the government's position. Rather, she said, Netanyahu is responsible for Lieberman.
During an interview with Army Radio, Livni said that Lieberman's harsh criticism of Turkey exposes a serious problem with Netanyahu's stance on the issue and said that Israel deserves a braver leader.
At the conference on Sunday, Lieberman had characterized as “lies” and “false promises” comments recently made by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Lieberman was especially angered by remarks Davutoglu made over the weekend that it would have taken Israel days to make the decision to send the kind of help to Turkey that Ankara dispatched during the Carmel forest fire.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report