Erdogan. Relations normalized
Photo: Reuters

Turkey: Israel has met our main demands

Turkish FM Davutoglu, fiery Israel critic, joins Erdogan in accepting Israel's expression of regret; Netanyahu was not so lucky, as former-FM Lieberman slams decision as 'serious mistake'

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday that all of Turkey's fundamental demands had been met with an apology from Israel over the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.


Davutoglu, who was one of the staunchest and fieriest critics of Israel in Turkey in recent years, commented on the issue after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted Netanyahu's apology and committed to normalize relations between the two Mideast powers.


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The dramatic news regarding the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, who have had tense - and at times - hostile relations during the last three years, broke just as US President Barack Obama was concluding his presidential visit to Israel and taking off to Jordan.


אובמה עם ארדואן. גם נשיא ארה"ב היה על הקו (צילום: AFP)

Obama, Erdogn (Photo: EPA)


In a statement released by the White House only minutes before Obama ended his visit to Israel, the president said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erodgan had spoken by telephone.


"The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security," Obama said.


לינץ' באחד מחיילי צה"ל על המרמרה, במאי 2010 (צילום: דובר צה"ל)

Marmara raid (Photo: IDF)


As Air Force 1 lifted off, reports emerged of a half-hour long conversation between Netanyahu and Erdogan. The call took place at Ben Gurion Airport, under Obama's auspices and with the US president on the line during its first minutes.


During the call, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed regret for the loss of lives during the Mavi Marmara raid and he and Erdogan agreed to normalize relation between the two countries.


חטיפת אחד מחיילי צה"ל באירועי המרמרה לפני שנתיים וחצי (צילום: AFP)

IDF soldier attacked on Marmara (Photo: AFP)


In an official statement, Netanyahu's office said: "In light of Israel's investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the prime minister expressed Israel's apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury."


Regarding the issue of compensation, which Turkey had demanded, the two agreed Israel would pass funds on to an international humanitarian fund. They additionally agreed Turkey would stop its legal proceedings against the IDF soldier involved in the raid.


More over, in regards to the Turkish demand to lift the military siege on Gaza, Israel said that it will move to ease conditions in the Palestinian territories should the situation allow it.


המרמרה נררת לנמל אשדוד ב-2010 (צילום: אבי רוקח)

Mavi Marmara docked in Ashdod port (Photo: Avi Rokah)


A little while after the Israeli statement was released, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan released a similar statement and underlined the importance of strong cooperation and friendship between the Turkish and Jewish nations, a message he also passed on to his Israeli counterpart in a telephone conversation, his office said.


"Erdogan told (Israeli premier) Benjamin Netanyahu that he valued the centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations," the statement from Erdogan's office said.


Turkish papers for their part focused on the fact that Netanyahu and Erdogan had pledged to work together to improve the humanitarian situation in Palestinian areas, including Gaza.


הכותרת בעיתון הנפוץ "טודיי זמאן", הערב

Turkish papers report reconciliation


The mother of one of the soldiers involved in the raid told Ynet she had mixed feelings about the apology.


"The most important things is that that there will be a policy of peace, allowing us to overcome the lines of dispute. However at a personal level, the image of the Marmara is always before my eyes. I can't get the boy's stories out of my head. It sends shivers down my spine.


"But we must differentiate between emotions and rational thought… so that there will be no more Marmara and that my son will no longer be put in such situations."


The mother of another soldier was not so sympathetic: "I will never step foot in Turkey nor will I eat Egyptian food because of that trauma. However, today's apology proved that we were the bigger man, it proved to the world that despite the hard experience, Israel desires peace."


ארדואן. קיבל את ההתנצלות (צילום: EPA)

Erdogan accepts apology (Photo: EPA)


The reconciliation might also allow a thawing in military cooperation.


Before the diplomatic break, Israeli pilots trained in Turkish skies, exercises widely seen as improving their capability to carry out long-range missions such as possible strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.


However since the Marmara no such training took place, forcing Israel to train above Poland, Greece and Italy. The tense relations also motivated Turkey to block IAF jets from nearing its borders in the Mediterranean.


As a possible hint at behind the scenes negotiations to normalize relations, the IDF Central Operations Unit softened its Turkish travel ban for IDF soldiers, now allowing soldiers to fly to Turkey, albeit only for connections.


'Turks wanted to humiliate'

Deputy foreign minister during the raid, Danny Ayalon, infamous for embarrassing the Turkish ambassador by seating him on a chair lower than his own during a meeting following the event, spoke to Ynet and said that he believes Netanyahu did the smart and right thing in apologizing.


"Israel's relations with Turkey are very important, but until now the problem was essential, not just a matter of a couple of words here or there.


"We could have made this apology a while ago, but then, more than they wanted an apology, Turkey wanted to humiliate Israel and hurt it international standing. Now, backed with the US initiative, it was possible to reach a compromise without anybody losing face."


In Israel, Netanyahu's decision received wide support, with Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich praising his decision to reconcile with Erdogan.


According to her: "It is best to swallow one's pride and do what is smart and beneficiary for the country."


Yachimovich added that "we should hope that the reconciliation is the first step towards a new policy, strengthening Israel's diplomatic and strategic standing."


However, former foreign minster, MK Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel's apologizing for the actions of IDF soldiers against terrorist agents is a serious mistake.


Lieberman was Israel's foreign minister at the time of the event, and according to him: "Anyone who has seen the pictures from the Marmara understands - without a shadow of a doubt - that the actions of the IDF soldiers were in self-defense." He further noted that the apology hurts soldier's motivation.


The prime minister was also attack from the left, MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) said: "If Netanyahu calls the death of 9 civilians an 'operational mistake', then this means it was not a real apology."


Zoabi, who took part in the 2010 flotilla, added that "a real apology is what Turkey and I have demanded since the start – an international inquiry committee."


In a statement, Hamas applauded Erdogan for having won an apology from Israel, and said he had told the group's leader Khaled Meshaal by telephone that Netanyahu also promised to "lift the siege on the Palestinian people", however, in an statement, Israel reiterated that it promised to work with Erdogan to improve the humanitarian situation - should the situation allow it - in Palestinian territories and Gaza.


Reuters and Nir Cohen contributed to this report



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פרסום ראשון: 03.23.13, 00:44
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