Deputy FM: Israel Won't Apologize for Gaza Flotilla Raid

Danny Ayalon's statement comes in the wake of recent reports of Israel-Turkey talks aimed at ending the diplomatic crisis between the two nations.

Israel has no intention of apologizing to the Turkish government for the Israel Defense Forces raid on Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May that left nine Turkish citizens dead, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the Knesset on Wednesday.

Ayalon, a member of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, spoke to the Knesset in the wake of recent reports that Israel and Turkey have been in negotiations to end the diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Danny Ayalon- Tess Scheflan- March 8, 2010
Tess Scheflan

Earlier this week, it was reported that the negotiations have become deadlocked because of Israel's refusal to apologize for the killings of Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara and Turkey's refusal to promise to abstain from legal action against Israeli soldiers and declare that the soldiers acted in self-defense.

An Israeli official told Haaretz that the talks are "stuck" and that "differences are still great." Nonetheless, he said it is still early to declare the talks dead and expects further discussions very soon. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman also stated last Friday that the talks will resume soon.

According to previously published reports, Israel has offered $100,000 to each Turkish family that lost a family member during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, called these figures "pure speculation."

A senior Turkish source told Haaretz that the disagreement now revolves over the wording of the Israeli apology and not the issue of compensation.

Zaman, a Turkish daily which supports Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, on Saturday quoted official sources saying that the talks in Geneva were disrupted "because of the stance of the Israeli army which is similar to that of [Avigdor] Lieberman." These sources also said that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is opposed to an Israeli apology, even though he attaches great strategic importance to relations between Israel and Turkey.

The reports of a possible Israeli apology for the raid, as well as compensation for the families of the dead Turks, aroused sharp criticism from Lieberman and others within Yisrael Beiteinu.

"An apology to Turkey is giving into terrorism," said associates of Lieberman.

Lieberman associates argued that it is Turkey who should apologize to Israel for the Gaza flotilla incident.

The recent spurt of diplomatic activity between Israel and Turkey started when Erdogan decided to send aid to help Israel extinguish the Carmel forest fire earlier this month.

Last week, Davutoglu said a "new era" of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel had begun following the fire.