Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently proposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Barak himself write to his Turkish counterpart apologizing for “operational mishaps” that might have occurred during Israel’s May 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara, during which nine Turkish nationals were killed. According to a Foreign Ministry source, Netanyahu rejected the idea.
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The Foreign Ministry source said that Barak had suggested utilizing the post-election transition period to repair relations with Turkey, which had begun to fray following Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-09 and deteriorated sharply following the Israel Defense Forces’ raid on the Turkish flotilla that was attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Barak told Netanyahu that, during the transition period, it would be easier to overcome the political sensitivities that had previously blocked an Israeli apology to Turkey.
During his second term, Netanyahu had weighed apologizing to the Turks several times. He always backed down for fear that then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who objected to an apology, would break up the governing coalition.
The Foreign Ministry source said Barak had told Netanyahu that since he was leaving political life anyway, he would issue the apology himself. “He told Netanyahu he was prepared to absorb any resulting criticism,” the source said.
Barak also cited the advantages of having the defense minister apologize to the defense minister and characterizing the events as a military mishap. That way, Barak said, there would be no need for Israel’s president or prime minister to apologize, which might have broader diplomatic ramifications.