Turkish Official: Gaza Flotilla Report Not Enough, Israel Must Apologize

Senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official says killing of nine Turkish nationals could have been prevented, demands Israel apologize, offer compensation and lift Gaza blockade.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The Turkish government has yet to publicly respond to Israel's State Comptroller's report published on Wednesday concerning the events surrounding the May 2010 IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara, although a Foreign Ministry official said it would not be enough to restore the diplomatic relations between the two states.

"The State Comptroller's report regarding the decision making process is not in Turkey's interest," a senior official in the Turkish Foreign Ministry said following the comptroller's report. "If the reports we received are correct, it shows that the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the killing of the Turkish nationals could have been prevented."

The official said the investigation and the resulting report would not be enough, and that Turkey still expects an apology for the killing of nine Turkish nationals.

The Turkish official made clear Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan still insists that Israel should apologize for its actions, offer compensation and lift the Gaza blockade.

As for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that Erdugan implied he could stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza, the official confirmed intense diplomatic communications between Israel, Turkey, U.S. and Egypt took place, but also insists "under no circumstance did Turkey say it was able to stop the flotilla."

Prior the flotilla, Turkey said it had no formal connection to IHH, and that the organization was operating under its own funding and agenda. However, both before and while the flotilla was underway, Turkish officials kept in touch with its organizers, trying to find an alternative destination.

One option examined was to unload the cargo at Egypt's Al-Arish port and transfer it by trucks to Gaza through the Egyptian border checkpoint. Although not excited with the idea, Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak was willing to agree to it.

However, the flotilla's organizers made clear that their target was not necessarily the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza, but breaking the blockade, and thus rejected it.

As opposed to some of his advisors - who tried to find a way to restore diplomatic relations with Israel – Erdogan used the flotilla as leverage to try to force Israel to lift the Gaza blockade.

There were some in the Turkish administration who claimed that although it is necessary to lift the blockade, it should be done as part of an international initiative under the UN, or at least with the cooperation of the United States and European Union, saying that it was not purely a Turkish issue.

Erdogan claims Turkey is obligated to the lifting of the Gaza blockade, as part of its stand on the Palestinian issue. Therefore, even if Israel were to apologize, he would not be satisfied until the blockade is lifted.

Not seeing-eye-to-eye, the Turkish opposition confronted Erdugan on his position. The opposition also demanded Israel apologize, but at the same time stated that Erdogan is using the Gaza blockade to gain political support at the expense of Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations.

"We cannot afford to be holier than the Pope," a Turkish opposition parliament member told Haaretz, "If the Palestinians are willing to negotiate with Israel and if Egypt is not demanding the removal of the blockade as prerequisite for diplomatic relations with Israel, why should we?"

Still, Erdogan rejected this approach long before the flotilla was launched. In 2008 he told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he objected to imposing of the blockade on Gaza, asking him for permission to try and negotiate a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

A similar request was submitted by Erdogan on the eve of IDF's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Erdogan asked Olmert to delay the operation so that he could try and get Hamas to agree to stop the rocket attacks on southern Israel. Olmert promised Erdogan to give him a final answer, but he did not halt the military from operating, while Turkey claims Olmert did not even take Erdogan's phone calls.

Erdogan's advisors said that this incident unleashed much anger at Israel's prime minister and with Israeli policy, which caused Erdogan to publicly slam Israel.

Read this article in Hebrew

Photo of Mavi Marmara taken on May 22, 2010 Credit: AP

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