Israel: We hope to mend Turkey ties, but will not apologize for Gaza flotilla
A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office insists IDF soldiers did not intend to kill flotilla activists and it regrets the loss of life, but does not apologize for it.
The Israeli member of the Palmer report team, former head of the Foreign Ministry, Joseph Ciechanover, released a statement Friday evening, presenting Israel’s objections to the report: “Israel rejects the report committee’s theory that the decision to board the ships was made in an excessive and unacceptable manner,” he said.
“We supplied the committee with evidence of the repeated warnings given the ships on Israel’s intentions to board their vessels. Israel holds that the committee didn’t consider the operational considerations dictating the way the ships were boarded, including the need to for a covert takeover intended to minimize the risk of resistance on the ship.”
Ciechanover commented on the Palmer Report’s criticism of the fact that Israeli soldiers shot Turkish activists from close-range and in their backs. “It is clear that there was an immediate threat to their lives,” he said. “Under these circumstances, the Israeli soldiers clearly acted out of self defense and responded reasonably, under restraint, using non-lethal weapons, when possible. The description of the circumstances leading to the killing of the Turkish activists doesn’t adequately take into account the complexity of what was a chaotic state of fighting. Under the circumstances of face-to-face combat that took place on the vessel, short-range injuries aren’t indicative of misdoing on the part of the soldiers.”
Ciechanover added that the treatment of the flotilla participants after the takeover was reasonable and in keeping with international standards. He said that “the fact that the Palmer Report relied on statements made by several passengers, given in the Turkish repot as evidence of misdeeds, is very problematic and give rise to serious doubt to the credibility of some of these statements.”
Ciechanover also said in his statement that “Israel acknowledges the common history and the friendship between the Turkish and Jewish people spanning hundreds of years, Israel hopes that the committee’s work will help Israel and Turkey find a way back to cooperation.”
An additional statement released Friday by Israel, this one by a senior source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office stated that Israel will endeavor to mend frayed ties with the Turkish government and people, but that it will not apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish activists, who it says were only killed by IDF soldiers in self-defense.
The source said that Israel has adopted the United Nations report on the 2010 Gaza Flotilla with the reservations that were presented by the Israeli representative to the UN committee, Yoseph Tshachnover.
"The report is a professional, serious, and extensive document," said the senior source. "The flotilla was a blatant attempt to break through the naval siege on Gaza. The Palmer Report ratifies the legality of the naval siege and Israel's right to enforce it."
Turkey decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Israel to the lowest possible level, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier on Friday, meaning that Israel's ambassador in Ankara would be expelled, following Israel's continued refusal to apologize for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Additionally, Davutoglu announced the cancellation of all defense contracts between Israel and Turkey, adding that Ankara would initiaite legal action against the Gaza blockade in international courts.
The Prime Minister's Office said that in the case of the Mavi Marmara, as in other instances in which Israel prevented the passage of sailing vessels from Gaza without any loss of life, IDF soldiers did not intend to hurt anybody.
"As Israeli soldiers were viciously attacked by dozens of violent activists of the (Turkish) IHH organization, they were forced to defend themselves. In the course of that action, nine of the rioting activist that endangered the lives of Israeli soldiers were killed," they said.
The senior source in the Prime Minister's Office clarified that in accordance with the Palmer report, Israel once again expresses regret over the loss of life, but does not apologize for its soldiers' acts of self-defense. "Like every other country, Israel has the legitimate right to defend its citizens and soldiers," said the source.
The PMO's announcement included a message to the government and people of Turkey. "Israel recognizes the historic connections, past and present, between the Turkish people and the Jewish people," the message said. "In light of this, Israel has made many attempts in recent months to settle the disagreement with Turkey. Unfortunately, we did not succeed."
"The State of Israel hopes that a way will be found to overcome the disagreement with Turkey, and Israel will continue to make efforts in that regard," it added.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's Office clarified that the Israeli Ambassador in Ankara, Gabby Levy, already completed his term several days ago and said his goodbyes to his Turkish counterparts. He is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days.
The PMO's announcement also related to Turkey's hinted threat to send naval ships to the sea surrounding Gaza. "Israel assumes that Turkey will respect international laws relating to sailing on the Mediterranean Sea."