Israeli, Turkish diplomats looking to end ‘Marmara’ crisis

Netanyahu says it's "too early to tell" whether turning point was reached; Barak says reconciliation is a key Israeli interest.

Israeli and Turkish flags 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli and Turkish flags 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli and Turkish diplomats at the UN are working on a statement regarding  last year's Mavi Marmara incident that would be acceptable to both sides and would come instead of the release of a report by a UN commission established to investigate the matter.
The UN committee, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and co-chaired by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, is scheduled to issue its findings in a matter of days.
RELATED:'Despite flotilla setbacks, Israel still needs to prepare' 'Erdogan to Abbas: Turkey will support PA statehood bid' Ministers speak of opportunity to improve Turkey ties
However, according to Israeli government officials, one option being considered is that the two sides would issue a statement that would not dwell on what happened last May when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, came under attack and killed nine Turks, but rather how to get over the incident and move forward.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a private meeting Monday, said it was "too early to tell" whether there had been a turning point in the relations with Turkey. He said, however, that the potential for change existed.
Defense Minster Ehud Barak also addressed the ties with Turkey, telling his Atzmaut faction that Israel had an interest in reconciling with Turkey and returning to previous understandings with Ankara.
Barak said that Turkey was one of four key countries in the region, the others being Saudi Arabia and Iran, with whom Israel had no ties, and Egypt, with whom it had a peace treaty but which was undergoing major changes. He said Israel had a keen interest in putting the past behind it in its relations with Turkey and moving forward.
Israeli diplomatic sources said that the dramatic changes in the region that have fundamentally altered Turkey's strategic calculus – from the turmoil in Syria and Libya, to the less than warm embrace of Turkey from Egypt – is also forcing Turkey to rethink its policies toward Israel.
The Palmer report was originally to be released on May 15, but was delayed because, according to Israeli officials, the Turks did not want the report  released before the June 12 Turkish elections since it  upheld the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, thereby placing some of the responsibility for what happened on Ankara's shoulders. The report also, according to Israeli officials, blamed Israel for a disproportionate use of force.
The Israeli representative to the committee, Joseph Ciechanover, and the Turkish representative, Ozden Sanberk, are currently working on a formula that, according to western officials, would satisfy both countries.
The Turks are interested in an apology and compensation for the victims, while Israel has indicated that though it is willing to express regret, it will not accept full responsibility for the event and wants to ensure that whatever agreement is reached puts an end to the whole affair. 
The Turkish daily Hurriyet on Monday quoted Turkish diplomats as saying that the search is now is for a word that "would sound like an open apology in Turkish,” but not so in Hebrew.
According to Israeli officials, the Turks have also been unwilling up until now to agree that any agreement would put an end to any future claims by the families of the victims against Israel, raising concern in Jerusalem that Ankara did not want to end the affair once and for all, but rather wanted to leave room for future claims that would keep Israel – in terms of this relationship – perpetually on the defensive.