Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
has reacted on Monday to the indictment
which was filed in Turkey against him and other senior IDF officers who were involved in the overpowering of the Marmara
ship in 2010.
relationship with Turkey is important as both countries have common interests which include maintaining stability in the Middle East. I'm sure that eventually common sense will prevail," Ashkenazi said.
"From the moment the affair broke out, I chose to stand up in every forum, often alone, to defend the IDF soldiers who performed their duty on the field for the Israeli nation," the former chief of staff noted. "If the price for standing my ground is that I can't visit Turkey – I'll pay that price too."
In addition to Ashkenazi, the Turkish court formally pressed charges against former Navy commander Eli Marom, former Air Force official Avishai Levy and former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin all involved in the raid.
According to the Turkish court, the senior officials face 10 consecutive life terms in prison for "inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing."
Marmara raid (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The 144-page indictment has been prepared after testimony from some 600 people, including 490 passengers from the six-ship flotilla and relatives of those who had died. The charges against the military officers include four counts of first-degree murder, intentional assault and torture of 114 pro-Palestinian activists.
The indictment which was prepared by Istanbul state prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci, suggests that should the four arrive in Turkey they would be immediately arrested.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment.
Judge Yaakov Turkel who headed the inquiry
committee into the events of the Gaza flotilla said that "Israel acted in accordance with international law." The commission cleared the soldiers of any use of unnecessary violence, stating: "It is possible to determine that the IDF soldiers acted professionally and with great presence of mind in light of the extreme violence which they hadn't expected."
A United Nations probe
into the incident found Israel's naval blockade of Gaza legally imposed "as a legitimate security measure" but added that the killing of eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American was "unacceptable."
Turkey has rejected the Palmer report findings, saying Israel had no right to raid the ship in international waters and said it would never recognize the blockade's legitimacy.
Turkey has also slapped a series of sanctions on Israel – once a top military trading partner – that included expelling senior Israeli diplomats and suspending all military deals.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas
seized control of the coastal territory from their Fatah
rivals in 2007. Israel allows humanitarian aid and goods into Gaza via land crossings after inspection for weapons.
Meanwhile, law experts said that the chances of the commanders actually being put on trial are slim to none. Prof. Ruby Seibel, the former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and a Hebrew University law expert, warned that Turkey may ask other countries to extradite the four IDF officers.
"Such an occurrence seems unlikely as no rational country would extradite the Israeli officials to Turkey. It's obvious that Turkey's actions are political and derive from utter frustration over Israel's refusal to apologize to Ankara for seizing the flotilla," said Seibel.
Seibel added that "Turkey's decision to indict the top officials is mainly a declaratory act, seeing as it never demanded the officials be handed over. However, I would advise the officers not to travel to Turkey in the near future, because if the Turkish government does issue out an arrest warrant, it is likely the police will abide by it."
Attorney Irit Kahn, former head of the International Department at the State Prosecutor's Office claimed that Ankara knows that Israel is unlikely to extradite the officers to Turkey. She further noted that the likelihood of other countries handing over the officials was "far-fetched."