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Moshe Yaalon
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
IDF commandoes board Mavi Marmara in 2010
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
The Mavi Marmara brought into the Ashdod port in 2010
Photo: Avi Roccah
Yaalon despairs of talks with Turkey
Vice premier sees no way forward in relations with Ankara while stance over flotilla apology remains unchanged
Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon poured cold water on any hopes of launching a new chapter in Jerusalem's relations with Ankara, saying that he did not see any possibility for reconciliation with Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

 

"I cannot bring about an agreement when the Turkish stubborn stance is as it is," Yaalon stated in a press briefing held Thursday.

 

 

The vice premier is the government-appointed envoy in discussions with Turkish over the Palmer report, which aims to probe the events of the first Gaza flotilla
 
He added that following the UN's Palmer report, which determined that Israel's blockade on Gaza and its military involvement in the prevention of the flotilla were legitimate, he believed that Ankara would reconsider its stance, but that was not the case.

 

"There is no change in the Turkish stance towards Israel and that did not start with the flotilla, but before hand."  

 

Though the Palmer committee will only be presenting its findings to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon next week, reports from earlier this month claimed that its members, international experts and representatives from turkey and Israel, determined that though the IDF used excessive force, the operation itself was legitimate.

 

The report's release was postponed by three weeks due to Turkey's refusal to accept its findings. An attempt to bridge the gaps between Jerusalem and Ankara in order to lessen the emphasis on support for Israel and criticism of Turkey – proved futile.

 

Yaalon addressed Turkey's demand for an apology from Israel over the killing of nine Turkish activists who were on board the Marmara, saying that Israel was willing to offer financial compensation to their families.

 

"We were willing to reach an agreement with Turkey from the start ,but my position is that while we are willing to express our condolences over the losses and participate in a humanitarian foundation – we are not willing to apologize. An apology means that we are taking responsibility for the events."

 

Pessimistic outlook

The vice premier noted that IDF soldiers who boarded the Marmara were the ones who were attacked first by the activists, who had equipped themselves with weapons in advance.  

 

"Our soldiers were defending themselves on board the Marmara, it was self defense. The fact that they didn't have to defend themselves on the other vessels – was because they weren't attacked. So there is no room for an apology.

 

"Compensatory payments would be de facto acceptance of responsibility and that's without even addressing the Turkish demand to remove the blockade. The blockade is legal according to all international agreements and the Palmer report."

 

Yaalon presented a pessimistic outlook: "Which is why with that kind of Turkish stance I don't see any possibility to bridge the gaps. Over the last few days there is a sense of psychological warfare coming from both Ankara and Jerusalem.

 

"My stance is very clear: I am not willing to use the word apology, while the Turkish prime minister insists on it…. If there is an agreement with Turkey they will suddenly change their position and say the blockade is legal? I don't see that possibility," he said.

 

Yaalon made it clear that an agreement with Turkey would not lead to the removal of lawsuits against Israel in Spain, Britain or anywhere else and that if Israel were to use the word "apology" it would be an admission of responsibility – which could be used in criminal and civilian suits against Israelis in international courts.

 

 

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