The Turkish flotilla could
have ended differently but Israel is
not to blame for its outcome, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal said Wednesday.
Testifying before the Turkel Commission probing the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, Gal said: "Had the organizers accepted our pleas, the incident would have ended in a positive manner."
The official also expressed his regret over the operation's tragic results. According to Gal, the Foreign Ministry tried to prevent the flotilla from departing via diplomatic means, but when "the violent clash occurred we dealt with the situation in the best possible way."
Gal said that the Ministry's efforts extended to Israel's missions in Ankara, Washington and other world capitals. He noted that once officials learned there were plans for violence onboard, further talks were held with Turkey.
Gal testifying. 'Naval blockade is right way' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Gal also addressed criticism included in a Foreign Ministry report regarding the exclusion of the Ministry's Policy Planning Bureau from the diplomatic efforts, and said he did not endorse the claims.
"The premise was that any entanglement in the operation would be serious," he said. "The Ministry raised the need to address the flotilla not just as a military operation but as a media one as well before the IDF."
Gal said that the delay in releasing footage to the media stemmed from a need to wait for a clearer picture of affairs and to take operational aspects into consideration.
"Our representatives in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit tried to speed up the arrival of the materials," he said.
The director-general further noted that the flotilla incident bears serious consequences for the relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem, adding that the Ministry is now focused on restoring relations to their proper course.
"It is in Israel's interest to restore relations with Turkey to their proper course. I visited Ankara prior to the flotilla and finalized a road map with my colleagues to improve relations with the Turks, but it didn't pan out," he said.
Gal said Israel is facing a serious de-legitimization campaign led by groups trying to create "humanitarian provocations" in order to compromise the Jewish state's moral image.
"Even today we are unfortunately busy trying to stop future flotillas," he said.
Asked whether the Foreign Ministry has considered alternatives to fighting back the de-legitimization, Gal replied that Israel's willingness to accept all humanitarian equipment and transfer it to Gaza is an obvious alternative, while maintaining the Gaza siege.
"I think that the naval blockade is the right way to go," he said.