Turkish President Abdullah Gul
Turkish President Abdullah Gul Photo by Reuters
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Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that divisions within Israel's governing coalition were stopping Israel from repairing relations ruined by the storming of a Gaza-bound aid ship over a month ago.

Gul said Israel's apparent readiness to become more isolated by ditching relations with a country that had been its only Muslim ally was irrational.

"They don't have many friends in the region, " Gul said. "Now it seems they want to get rid of the relationship with Turkey."

The United States, a mutual ally of Israel and NATO-member Turkey, has quietly encouraged the two governments to overcome their differences.

But in comments as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet President Barack Obama in the United States on Tuesday, Gul said that he believed bitter rivalries within the Israeli coalition were stopping a rapprochement.

"As far as I can see, the internal political strife in Israel is very harsh. They undermine each other... they always block one another," Gul said.

"It is important that everyone is aware of what kind of politics is going on there," Gul said. "My own impression is that they don't have the ability to act rationally."

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, after which Turkey withdrew its ambassador, suspended joint military exercises and closed Turkish airspace to Israeli military planes.

Turkey has demanded an apology, compensation for victims' families and an international inquiry into the incident. It doubts the impartiality of an Israeli inquiry begun last month.

Turkey also led calls for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Monday that Turkey would not wait forever and without going into specifics he said Turkey would cut off ties if Israel failed to start making amends.

Should the Israeli commission rule that the raid was indeed unfair and the Israeli government apologized in line with those findings, Turkey could be satisfied, Davutoglu added.

On Tuesday, the Turkish foreign minister renewed his demand for an Israeli apology and criticized his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman's approach to the issue.

"What Lieberman says has no value for us," Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish television network TGRT.

Davutoglu said he did not view his Israeli counterpart as a proper go-between "owing to his rhetoric and attitude."

Israel maintains the marines fired in self defense after a boarding party was attacked by activists armed with metal clubs and knives.

Israel has partially relaxed its blockade of Gaza following the international outcry over the incident, but argues that a blockade is needed to choke off the supply of arms to Hamas Islamists running the enclave of 1.5 million people.

Gul said a meeting between ministers of the two governments in Brussels last Wednesday was requested by the Israeli side and was supposed to have been secret; but news of the talks was leaked by other factions in Netanyahu's cabinet who wanted to stop any progress.

"There were those who were not happy with this, and the situation remains frozen."

The meeting between Davutoglu and Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had been the first face to face contacts between senior officials since the attack on the aid flotilla on May 31.

Lieberman said he had not been informed of the meeting as a row broke out within the Israeli cabinet.

Netanyahu subsequently said that while his government regretted the loss of life and wanted to stop relations deteriorating further there would be no apology as the Israeli soldiers had acted in self-defense. Lieberman also ruled out an apology.

Although Turkey is heading towards an election a year away, and politics are highly charged, there has been cross-party support for the government's stance towards Israel.