Israeli Defense Officials Favor Offering Apology To Turkey
Israeli defense forces show increased support toward the idea of resuming relations with Turkey after the incident in May last year, when nine Turkish nationals were killed by the Israeli Navy over intercepting a vessel that was breaching the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinian territory after the elections in 2007, when Hamas, considered by Israel a terrorist organization, won free elections.
The Israeli military leaders have been discussing the matter with the ministry of justice, and urged that in order for things to get better with the Turks, the idea of a cautious apology may be acceptable, provided that this apology does not set the ground for a possible ulterior judicial procedure launched by the families of the nine dead Turks against the Israeli soldiers that participated in the incident on Mavi Marmara.
The initiative comes a few weeks before the United Nations release of the Palmer report drafted by September last year by a panel of inquiry appointed by U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon to investigate what happened on May 31, 2010, on the Turkish-flagged vessel that was part of the flotilla heading towards Gaza.
The panel, led by former NZ Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, established that Israel used a brutal method of imposing the observance of the blockade, and that the activists on board were treated in uncivilized manner.
Ban Ki-moon did not release the report immediately, because he wanted to give the two countries time to negotiate and come to terms, but little was accomplished since then.
Turkish committee that investigated the case is said to have accepted, as has the U.N. panel, that the blockade was legal, but they disagreed about the means of enforcing it.
However, this does not seem to be an official point of view of the Turkish government, since last week, while reiterating the need of an apology from Israel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan included among the amends Israel must make the termination of the blockade on Gaza.
The panel determined that Israel used excessive violence, and that it could have averted the killing of at least a few activists, even though the activists used iron rods and other pieces of metal to defend themselves.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pronounced himself recently against offering any sort of apology, considering that it would humiliate Israel, while defense minister argues that an apology offered now would prevent later legal problems for the soldiers implicated in the incident, whose photos are now on the internet and can be seen and used by Islamic radicals to avenge the deaths of the nine Turks.
However, there is concern that once the apology offered, the Western countries could take the same steps as Britain did, when it prevented senior Israeli officials from entering Britain for some time, only that now it would apply to the soldiers involved.
Defense minister favors the idea of smoothing the relations with Turkey, though offering an apology is not its formal stance on the matter, because of Turkey’s position in the Muslim world, now that this world is crumbling, of the past relations and of the military-related cooperation opportunities.
Even defense minister Ehud Barak, who took responsibility for what happened on May 31, 2010, alluded in an interview that it would be better if relations with Turkey would be “smoothed.”
While stating that national pride was important, Ehud Barak reminded that Turkey could bring an extraordinary contribution in dealing with Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Hamas.11