Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish media that Israel had sent a Jewish U.S. businessman in bid to formulate an agreement that would clear the air between the states.
"A few months ago they sent me the world's richest Jew," Erdogan said in an interview with NTV broadcasted Monday. "For what purpose? He was supposed to serve as a mediator."
In the meeting with the Jewish-American businessman, Erdogan noted, the Turkish prime minister made clear that in order to restore relations between the states, Israel must apologize for the killing of nine Turkish activists in the 2010 Gaza flotilla, pay damages to the victims' families and lift the Gaza blockade.
Erdogan also revealed that in recent months he was also approached on the matter by U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron, adding that his response was unchanged.
This Jewish-American businessman, according to a report in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak on Tuesday, is the chairman of the World Zionist Organization Ronald Lauder, a considered ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one of the owners of Israel's channel 10. Over the past two years, the relations between Lauder and Netanyahu had gone sour, but recently the two reconciled.
In past elections, Lauder donated funds to Netanyahu's campaigns. Despite his high-profile, during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, Lauder served as a special envoy to Syria's Hafez Assad. Lauder negotiated a peace deal between Israel and Syria of Netanyahu's behalf, offering Israel would withdraw from most of the Golan Heights as part of a peace accord.
However, Erdogan's remarks raise the possibility that Netanyahu's mediator was another Jewish-American businessman close to the prime minister, who is considered to be the world's wealthiest Jew – casino mogul Shledon Adelson.
Adelson, who is considered an old friend of the Israeli prime minister, owns the freely-distributed pro-Netanyahu Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom, However, unlike Lauder, Adelson does not usually go on diplomatic missions on behalf of Netanyahu.
In response, sources at the Prime Minister's Office said: "Neither Lauder nor Adelson were sent to Turkey by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."
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