The meeting between Industry, Trade and Labor Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu this week stirred up a storm not only in Israel. Although there was no official comment and the Turkish leadership is maintaining a polite silence, the Turkish opposition is going to town.
A member of an opposition party told Haaretz that "Now [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's real face is revealed. After his loud comments about Israel he is willing to hold secret talks with the country."
Turkish sources reported that during the meeting the two ministers tried to hammer out an acceptable version of the apology Turkey is demanding from Israel, as well as agree on compensation for the families of those killed in Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. "There has to be a clear Israeli statement that is not just an expression of regret at the deaths of the victims," one Turkish source stated.
The meeting, which took place in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Brussels in a room ordered under an assumed name, fits Davutoglu's stance. The Turkish foreign minister had originally asked the Turkish aid organization IHH to postpone the flotilla and allow the government to reach an agreement with Israel.
Davutoglu was concerned that such aid organizations might force Turkey into a foreign policy that conflicts with its own strategic interests. However, these organizations enjoy broad public support and can impact elections.
Davutoglu also believes both that Israel's response was disproportionate and that it is not in Turkey's interests to create an irreparable rift between the countries. This contradicts the position of several senior members of the ruling party who - more than they want to penalize Israel - fear a boosted Davutoglu seeking party leadership if not the premiership, should Erdogan run for the presidency.
Meanwhile, a Turkish human rights organization announced that preliminary findings indicate that some of the victims were killed by gunfire from inside Israel Navy helicopters and not by soldiers who had boarded the ship.
They cite the angle of the wounds and the type of head wounds of some victims. However, because the bodies were washed before they were transferred to Turkey, it is difficult to determine if they were shot from close or long range.