Lieberman: Apology to Turkey will broadcast weakness

Israel agreed to apologize to Turkey over "tactical mistakes" made in 'Mavi Marmara,' Army Radio reports; Netanyahu reportedly backed out.

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
An Israeli apology to Ankara over 2010’s Mavi Marmara incident will not change the relations between the two countries, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no intention of improving ties, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday.
Lieberman’s comments in an Israel Radio interview came amid reports that the US had softened Lieberman’s position on an apology to Turkey and would not bolt the coalition if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to apologize for “operational” mistakes that took place while intercepting the Mavi Marmara.
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Sources in the Foreign Ministry denied this report, saying Lieberman had made it clear weeks ago that he would not leave the government over this issue.
In his interview, Thursday, Lieberman pointed out that Erdogan was not only calling for an apology, but also for a lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza. He also said the Turkish leader was pressuring countries in the region to support the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September.
Earlier in the week, Lieberman said Bulgaria – a country with close ties to Israel – was under intense pressure from Erdogan to support the PA at the UN.
“Whoever sees the positions expressed by Turkey [regarding Israel and the Palestinians] in the international community does not have any illusions that an apology will dramatically improve Israel’s ties with Turkey,” he said.
Lieberman said an apology would be interpreted regionally as weakness, “and they don’t like weakness here. It is forbidden to be weak, and an apology is first and foremost a message of weakness.”
The foreign minister dismissed the notion that an apology, and paying compensation to the families of the nine Turks killed in the incident, would fend off future legal action against IDF soldiers, saying there are dozens of such actions pending around the world.
“I met yesterday with the parents of those same commandos [who took part in the operation], those same soldiers who came to my office with one request: under no circumstances give in and apologize. When you apologize it is an admission of guilt,” Lieberman said.
Meanwhile, Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the issue of Turkey did come up in talks he had with Netanyahu on Wednesday, and that the US does believe that improving Israeli-Turkish relations is an “important objective.”
“[Netanyahu] made it clear that he would like to see the relationship improve,” Hoyer said of the prime minister’s comments on the issue. “He did not mention an apology with Turkey.”
Hoyer said he did not want to give an opinion whether there should be an apology or not, but said he was “very supportive of Israel’s actions” in reference to the naval blockade.
Senior diplomatic officials have said that the US has been encouraging the sides to come to a resolution of the issue, believing that the ability of Israel and Turkey to work together is strongly in the US interest, as well as in the interests of both countries.
The Turkish issue was reportedly one of a number of regional issues Netanyahu discussed with US President Barack Obama in a conversation they had on Wednesday.