ROME – Israel and Turkey have reached a reconciliation agreement that ends the bilateral crisis that began with the killing of Turkish nationals during an Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010.
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The agreement will be officially announced Monday afternoon. During the conclusive meeting on Sunday between the negotiation teams, Israel got an official letter from the Turkish government in which it committed to intervene with Hamas to bring the cases of the two fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers and two Israel civilians missing in Gaza to a conclusion.
The joint announcement of the agreement was meant to take place Sunday evening, but instead was postponed to 1 P.M. Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold a press conference in Rome with the Israeli negotiating team – special envoy Joseph Ciechanover, who has been involved in the talks since the beginning, and acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel. At the same time, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yldrm will hold a similar press conference in Ankara.
The agreement itself is to be signed on Tuesday by the directors-general of the Israeli and Turkish foreign ministries. The two will not meet, but will sign the agreement separately in Jerusalem and Ankara.
A senior Israeli official involved with the negotiations noted that the announcement was postponed for technical reasons and was not related to any lingering disputes. “The time when we wanted to announce the agreement coincided with the iftar feast that breaks the Ramadan fast,” the senior official said.
According to the senior official, the agreement includes the following sections:
* Turkey commits to pass a law that voids all old lawsuits against the IDF soldiers that participated in the 2010 raid on the aid flotilla, and requires Turkey to compensate Israel in the event of future claims.
* Israel will transfer $20 million to a humanitarian fund that will compensate the families of the Turkish nationals killed and wounded during the raid on the ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of the May 2010 flotilla. Under the agreement, the money will only be transferred after the legislation mentioned in Section 1 is passed. The amount was agreed on two years ago and hasn’t changed.
* Turkey yielded on its demand for Israel to remove the marine blockade on the Gaza Strip and essentially recognized that any aid it wants to provide Gaza will have to first go through Ashdod Port.
* Israel will allow Turkey to build infrastructure projects in Gaza like a hospital, power station and a desalination plant. Israel commits to allow Turkey to transfer unlimited humanitarian aid and equipment to Gaza as long as it goes through Ashdod.
* Israel and Turkey will normalize bilateral relations. The level of diplomatic representation will be raised; ambassadors will be appointed to Tel Aviv and Ankara and all restrictions on diplomatic, security, military and intelligence cooperation will be lifted.
* In March 2013, Israel apologized for the killing of the nine Turkish nationals in the raid by IDF naval commandos. The apology, delivered by Netanyahu in a phone call to Erdogan, was one of the conditions Turkey had set for restoring normal relations.
“They wanted us to remove the blockade on Gaza, but we categorically rejected that,” the senior official said. “But we agreed to help the Gaza population. Our policy is to differentiate between the population and Hamas. There are worrisome signs that the Gaza infrastructure is collapsing. In the end, we are hurt by this, so it’s in our interest to deal with Gaza and we want other countries to help.”
Along with the main sections the agreement has two appendices. The first deals with the Israeli demand to close Hamas’ military headquarters in Istanbul from which attacks against Israel in the West Bank are planned. A senior Israeli official said Sunday that the Turkish government committed to making sure no Hamas terror attack or military activity against Israel originates on its soil. “Turkey committed to enforcing this,” the official said. “It will be an indivisible part of the agreement.”
The second appendix is essentially an official letter Turkey gave to Israel on Sunday in which it commits to intervening with Hamas to try to get the two missing soldiers and two missing civilians returned. A senior Israeli official told reporters that the letter was given to the Israeli negotiating team by the Turkish team during Sunday's meeting in Rome.
The senior official noted that Netanyahu had instructed the Israeli team to raise the issue of the missing Israelis in Gaza during the negotiations several months ago. The objective, he said, was to obtain Turkey’s commitment to use its influence with Hamas in Gaza to achieve a breakthrough, and yesterday that effort came to fruition.
“We requested and received an official letter in which Turkish President Erdogan instructed Turkish intelligence and all the relevant government agencies to take all measures necessary to bring the issue of the prisoners and MIAs in Gaza to a close on humanitarian grounds,” the senior official said. “That’s what Turkey can do at this point to help in this matter.”