Mavi Marmara - AP 2010
People, holding Turkish and Palestinian flags, cheering as the Mavi Marmara ship returns in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010. Photo by AP
Text size

Israel did not respond officially to the submission of a Turkish indictment against four former top IDF officers, yet a foreign ministry official stated anonymously on Monday that the indictment reflects a tailspin in relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. "Erdogan is systematically killing relations between the two states," the official said.

The court in Istanbul voted unanimously to approve an indictment against Israel's former military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, along with the former heads of its navy, air force intelligence, and military intelligence, Eliezer Marom, Amos Yadlin, and Avishai Levi, the Anadolu Agency said. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for "inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing," according to Turkey's state-run news agency.

Former Chief of Staff Ashkenazi released a response saying that "Turkey is an important state, and it shares with Israel a common interest in stability in the Middle East, and I am sure that in the end common sense will prevail." Ashkenazi added that "from the start of this affair I chose to appear in every forum, and defend IDF soldiers and the IDF itself; the soldiers and the army carried out its mission in the field, for the benefit of the state."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said he thinks that heavy international pressure will be exerted on Turkey, calling on it to scuttle this indictment. "We view this as a grave development," he said. "Things have lost all proportion."

It is unlikely Israeli military members will be brought before Turkey's judicial system, since Israel does not regard them as criminals. If they are convicted in absentia at the end of the trial process, which could take months if not years, the Turkish court could issue an order for their arrest, but such a move would be symbolic and not binding.

According to Turkish news agencies, nine life sentences were demanded - one for each of the casualties aboard the Mavi Marmara – as part of the indictment, which calls for a combined 18,000 years of imprisonment for the four former officers, punishment for crimes committed during the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. The indictment includes 490 victims and complainants, among them 189 were injured during the raid.