'Israel Hopes to Overcome Crisis With Turkey, but Won't Apologize for Gaza Flotilla Raid'

Prime Minister says Israel has no reason to apologize for defending itself against weapons smuggling, follow Turkey decision to implement measures over Gaza flotilla raid.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the ongoing crisis with Turkey on Sunday, saying he "hopes a way will be found to overcome the differences with Turkey," and adding that "we do not want a further downgrading of the relations."

Speaking at the weekly government meeting, Netanyahu added that the UN-commissioned Palmer report regarding the Israel Defense Forces' 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla released over the weekend confirms what Israel knew from the beginning:

Netanyahu - AP - August 28, 2011

"Israel has a right to defend itself," he said. "We do not need to apologize for [stopping] weapons smuggling by Hamas, and we do not need to apologize for working to defend our children, our citizens and our cities."

Turkey has followed through on a series of measures against Israel, after a UN review on the 2010 Israeli raid on the Turkish aid flotilla was leaked to The New York Times - foiling a last-ditch attempt to patch up relations between the two countries.

On Friday morning, Turkey announced a series of measures against Israel, beginning with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the downgrading of bilateral relations to the level of second secretary.

Another step announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu could lead to a military confrontation with Israel. "Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean," Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying Friday. The paper reported that Turkey's navy would escort civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and would guarantee free navigation in the zone between Israel and Cyprus.

Over the weekend senior Turkish officials claimed that Israeli government figures engineered the leak as part of what they termed an Israeli disinformation campaign being waged in connection to the UN report. The Turkish sources believe that Israeli cabinet members who oppose issuing an apology to Turkey, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, or even officials in the Prime Minister's Bureau, leaked the report to the Times in order to prevent any additional postponement of its publication.