Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
announced on Wednesday that Israel will not apologize to Turkey over the 2010 flotilla incident, despite an earlier demand by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do so.
Clinton spoke with Netanyahu, asking Israel to apologize to Turkey for killing nine of its citizens aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010. However, Netanyahu made it clear that given the current situation in the Middle East, Israel will not issue an apology.
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Later on Wednesay, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said it would be impossible for Turkish-Israeli ties to improve unless Israel apologised and paid compensation for the killing of the nine Turks.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Istanbul that "if the Palmer Report does not contain an apology, both sides and the United States know what we will do." He did not elaborate.
"Israel is facing a choice: deeper relations with Turkey or open a gap with the Turkish state that will not be overcome very easily," he said.
Netanyahu's announcement comes only three days before the submission of the Palmer Report
on events surrounding the flotilla to Gaza.
Jerusalem officials explained that the prime minster has accepted the position of Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon,
while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence & Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor called to resolve the diplomatic crisis
The US administration applied heavy pressure on Israel to apologize to the Turkish government over events surrounding the May 2010 raid. The Americans wish to stabilize Israeli-Turkish relations as soon as possible.
Israeli diplomats in the US have recently delivered a communiqué from the State Department and Clinton stating that the deterioration in Jerusalem's ties with Ankara is harming American interests in the region, Yedioth Aharonoth reported.
Clashes on board the Marmara (Photo: Reuters)
The US is seeking to strengthen its ties with the Turkish government in the wake of the violent crackdown in Syria.
Both the US and Turkey have common goals: to end Bashar Assad's reign and replace him with a more moderate leader, to stabilize Syria and prevent its collapse.
On its part, Washington wants to bring to the table an Israeli agreement to apologize over the flotilla incident.
The American demand was also voiced by Clinton during talks she held with Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the latter's visit to the US three weeks ago. In their meeting, she urged Barak that Israel do all that it can to end the crisis, including apologizing to the Turks.
Three days before the submission of the Palmer Report
on events surrounding the flotilla to Gaza, the American pressure is growing.
According to Israeli diplomats in Washington, US officials had even implied that it would be difficult for the US to persuade other nations to reject the Palestinians' UN statehood bid in September if Jerusalem refuses to apologize to Turkey.
Meanwhile, Turkey – which is aware of the American pressure on Israel – is applying its own pressure on the UN to scrap or postpone the submission of the Palmer Report until Israel issues an apology.
Senior cabinet ministers who met over the weekend to discuss the matter did not reach any decision, which could point to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would rather have the report published without an Israeli response and only after its publication would Israel weigh its options.
Reuters and Alex Fishman contributed to the report