Lieberman Says Apology to Turkey a 'Serious Mistake'

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Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday that Israel's apology to Turkey over the 2010 Israel Navy raid on the Gaza flotilla was a "serious mistake."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, and apologized for the deaths of nine Turkish activists during the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel. The two leaders agreed to normalize relations between the two countries.

Lieberman, who currently chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stated in response: "An apology by the State of Israel on an Israel Defense Forces operation against a terror organization is a serious mistake."

"The apology hurts the motivation of IDF soldiers, strengthens extremists in the area and hurts Israel's struggle along the righteous path," he said.

Lieberman added that it is Turkey's current leadership that is solely responsible for the deterioration of relations between the two countries.

"Erdogan's refusal to apologize for his explicitly anti-Zionist remarks alongside the Israeli apology hurts Israel's dignity and status in the region and the world."

The apology to Turkey was done in coordination with the IDF, and with the agreement and blessing of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the army spokesperson said in a statement. This was done in light of the importance of security and strategic ties with Turkey, it added. 

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, meanwhile, said that Netanyahu did the right thing, and that Turkey is a regional power that is important for Israel to have good ties with. "Even if the apology to Turkey was given with a heavy heart, it is good that it was given." 

Labor MK Isaac Herzog also welcomed the news, saying that it is in Israel's strategic interests. "Turkey is important in its own right in the region, it is right to try and maintain good relations with her as far as is possible," he said.  

MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who was on board the Mavi Marmara during the raid, said that the apology "is not enough, this is human life and the killing of nine political acitivists." A real apology should be accompanied an international committee to investigate the incident, she said.

"If Netanyahu wants to start a new stage with the world around him, and not only make do with the embraces that Obama gave him in abundance, then he should know that his direction should be the Palestinian problem: the occupation and expulsion as his American friend said. You can not just have good relations with Turkey, when the Palestinian issue is neglected and denied." What happened on the Mavi Marmara "was the small crime," she added, saying that if Netanyahu wants to apologize, it should be to those "who are under siege." 

Avigdor Lieberman, Danny Ayalon, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh.Credit: Haaretz

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