Israeli ministers mull apology to Turkey over Gaza flotilla
Turkey PM Erdogan: We support Palestinian statehood bid; Netanyahu to convene top ministers to mull Mavi Marmara apology.
A forum of the senior-most Israeli eight ministers will meet today in Jerusalem to decide whether to accept the draft of an agreement for ending the diplomatic crisis with Turkey.
As part of the proposed deal, Israel will apologize for operational failures that led to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens during the stopping of a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010.
Ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Ya'alon are opposed to the apology, while their colleagues Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor support it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will risk a coalition crisis with Yisrael Beiteinu if he favors the apology.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated over the weekend his position that, in order for relations between Israel and Turkey to thaw, Israel will have to apologize, pay compensation to the families of the casualties and lift the siege on the Gaza Strip.
The Turkish leader hinted yesterday that if the efforts at reconciliation with Israel fail, he will visit the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
"Turkey is not interested in stirring tension by my visit to Gaza," he said, during a press conference with the Jordanian prime minister, Marouf Bakhit. "It will be wrong to ask for an apology and at the same time visit Gaza. There are those in the Israeli government who support an apology and there are those who are opposed. I will wait for their decision and then I will carry out plan B [to visit Gaza]."
Speaking at the "Palestinian Ambassadors' Conference" in Istanbul, Erdogan said that "no belief can make killing innocent people legitimate. I salute the Palestinians, and those who are dedicated to the Palestinian cause. I remember the nine martyrs who were killed by Israeli soldiers in May 2010, and I hope God will have mercy on their souls."
The Turkish prime minister said his country supports the Palestinian intention to seek UN recognition in September, and that the entire world should take action in order to remove the Gaza blockade.
He added that Israel should accept the fact that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian state. "Israel cannot stop the Palestinian people from creating a state," he said.
He also said the international community should take action to remove the naval blockade from the Gaza Strip, and expressed his opposition to the conclusions of the UN report which said the blockade does not run contrary to international law. "The naval blockade is illegal and it should be lifted as soon as possible," Erdogan said.
A senior political source in Jerusalem said yesterday that "Erdogan's weekend statements did not help convince the opponents [to an apology] to be more flexible."