Lifting Gaza Blockade 'Out of the Question,' Senior Israeli Officials Say

Sources at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office reject Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's condition for reconciliation with Turkey.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israel will not lift the blockade currently imposed on the Gaza Strip, senior officials at the Prime Minister Office said on Wednesday, a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that lifting the siege be a condition for signing a reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey.

At a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan said that negotiations with Israel have progressed, but have not ended. He added that Turkey has received an apology from Israel, and that talks over compensation for the families of those killed and wounded on the Mavi Marmara flotilla that tried to break the Gaza blockade in 2010 are ongoing.

However, Erdogan noted that lifting the siege over Gaza – one of the conditions set by Turkey for normalizing relations with Israel – has not yet transpired. "Nothing will happen without lifting the siege on Gaza," he said.

Responding to Erdogan's remarks, senior officials at the Prime Minister's Office said the Turkish condition will not be met. Both lifting the siege over Gaza, they said, and signing "written protocol" pledging such a move will be taken, were "out of the question."

On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a local television station that Israel and Turkey are closer than ever to normalizing relations between the two countries.

There has recently been momentum and a new approach in compensation talks, Davutoglu said. We could say that most of the differences have been recently removed in these discussions.

Last week, Haaretz reported that Israel has offered to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the nine people killed during an Israeli commando raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010, as well as to those in the incident. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized his envoys to go as high as $23 million in order to secure an agreement.

A senior Turkish delegation visited Israel last week to discuss the reconciliation agreement. The talks focused on the compensation amount and the steps Turkey would take to normalize relations and put an end to legal action against Israeli soldiers and officers that were involved in the Mavi Marmara raid.

Israel is demanding that, as part of the agreement, Turkey pass a law that will void the pending lawsuits against Israeli soldiers involved in the Mavi Marmara incident and block such actions in the future.

Jerusalem also wants normalization of relations with Turkey to go beyond the symbolic return of ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara. Israel wants its diplomatic dialogue with Turkey to resume along with ministerial meetings, mutual visits and other steps. Israel also expects Turkey to commit not to act against Israel in international forums and to stop haranguing Israel in the media.

The Mavi Marmara, aboard which Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish activists, leaving Haifa on August 5, 2010.Credit: AP

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