Ya'alon says Israel won't apologize for 'Marmara' incident

Minister says "Turkish stubbornness preventing us from bridging gaps"; reported "threat" by Erdogan to visit Gaza leaves Jerusalem unmoved.

yaalon office 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon office 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The “golden era” of Israeli- Turkish ties will not return – even if Israel apologizes for the Mavi Marmara incident – Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday, reiterating that Israel has no intention of acquiescing to Ankara.
Ya’alon, who in recent weeks led three rounds of talks with the Turks in an effort to find a formula that would bring closure to last year’s flotilla incident, indicated in an Israel Radio interview that Jerusalem felt no pressure to reach an agreement with Turkey before former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer issues a report on the matter.
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“Turkish stubbornness is preventing us from bridging the gaps, and therefore it is good that Palmer will release his report on July 27, and then we will meet,” Ya’alon said.
The UN-commissioned report is widely believed to uphold the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, as well as the right of Israel to stop the flotilla – while taking the IDF to task for using excessive force in stopping the Mavi Marmara.
The report is also believed to highlight Turkish government links with the flotilla, which resulted in the death of nine Turks when IDF commandos were attacked while boarding the ship.
The Turks are demanding an Israeli apology for the incident and compensation payments to the family of the victims, as well as a lifting of the Gaza blockade.
Ya’alon said that while Israel agreed to express regret for the loss of lives, it would not apologize.
There is a huge difference, he said, because an apology means taking responsibility for the action.
The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish provocation, Ya’alon added, pointing out that by stopping Turkish participation in this year’s flotilla, Ankara showed that it could have stopped last year’s as well, had it been so inclined.
“The Turkish government also bears responsibility,” he said.
“I am also not sure that the Turks are willing to renew the golden era of ties,” Ya’alon said.
“The deterioration [in the relationship] happened even before the flotilla, and has to do with the orientation of the [Turkish] government.”
In Turkey, meanwhile, the website of the daily Hurriyet reported that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would go ahead with a longdiscussed trip to Gaza if Israel did not issue an apology.
The paper cited diplomatic sources as saying Erdogan originally planned to cross into Gaza from Rafah during his trip to Egypt on Thursday, but decided to postpone the Gaza leg of his journey because of “the possibility of an apology from Israel.”
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According to Hurriyet, if this does not happen before the Palmer report is released, Erdogan is considering going to Gaza during Ramadan, which begins August 1.
The paper said Turkey has made clear it would take further steps that would cause a deeper deterioration of ties if an Israeli apology was not forthcoming.
While Hurriyet reported that the news of a possible Erdogan visit to Gaza has “caused fury on the Israeli side,” officials both in the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Ministers Office said it was hardly a topic of conversation.
“If he wants to go to Gaza, let him go,” one official said, who requested anonymity, adding that a trip there through Rafah does not need to be coordinated with Israel, and that a number of international diplomats and leaders – including EU Foreign- Policy Chief Catherine Ashton – have already made the trip.