Defense Minister Lieberman Expected to Vote Against Israel-Turkey Rapprochement Deal

Lieberman has long opposed an Israeli apology to Ankara Habayit Hayehudi ministers Bennett and Shaked still undecided Opposition leader Herzog accuses Netanyahu of 'groveling' before Turkey.

Newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman walks at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, ahead of his swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem, Monday, May 30, 2016.
Ariel Schalit / AP

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is expected to oppose a reconciliation deal between Israel and Turkey when the security cabinet votes on it on Wednesday, sources in his party said following a faction meeting in parliament on Monday.

Israel and Turkey announced a rapprochement agreement on Monday that officially ends a diplomatic crisis since the killing of Turkish nationals during an Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010. 

Lieberman has long opposed an Israeli apology to Turkey over the Gaza flotilla events, saying that Erdogan's Turkey is only interested in attacking Israel and therefore should be treated accordingly.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is also a member of the security cabinet, said she and her Habayit Hayehudi party leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have not stated their position on the agreement because they "have not seen all of the details of the agreement and the final version." In previous comments on relations with Turkey, Bennett has opposed an Israeli apology to Ankara.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, May 16, 2016.
Emil Salman

In response to a question posed by MK Esawi Freige (Meretz), Shaked also commented on the compensation from Israel that the reconciliation agreement provides to the families of those killed and injured on board the Mavi Marmara.

"In this specific case, there is no connection between the compensation and the event," she said."IDF soldiers defended their lives because were confronted with a scene with terrorists that had come with lethal equipment. The international report that dealt with the issue said this, as did investigation committees that we conducted. I am proud of the way in which IDF soldiers dealt with the Marmara."

Shaked's comments on the agreement with Turkey, she said, will be made at Wednesday's security cabinet meeting.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday of groveling before Turkey, by agreeing to pay out compensation to families of 10 Turkish citizens killed in confrontations with IDF soldier aboard a Gaza-destined flotilla in 2010 as part of a reconciliation deal with Ankara.

"The agreement with Turkey is a part of the pattern of the prime minister's activities. He starts with big declarations, moves on to promises, and winds up groveling," Herzog wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

"Restoring relations with Turkey is an important diplomatic goal but compensating the attackers of IDF troops is inconceivable, especially when those signing onto the deal are the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Bennett trio."

"Every Jewish mother should know that right-wing leaders will compensate those who attack your children," Herzog also wrote.

Herzog also accused Netanyahu's cabinet of showing "indifference" and acting "heartlessly" toward the families of IDF soldiers believed killed in a 2014 Gaza war whose bodies have not yet been recovered, and two other Israeli citizens believed held captive in the Gaza Strip.

The soldier's parents launched a vigil on Sunday near Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, to protest the accord with Turkey.

Under the deal, Turkey has pledged to seek to recover the missing Israelis and the soldiers' remains but the agreement falls short of guaranteeing such outcomes.

MK Nahman Shai (Zionist Union) demanded an urgent Knesset debate about the deal with Turkey, which he said set a "dangerous precedent" by compensating those aboard the flotilla that sought to violate Israel's blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Bezalel Smotritch, lawmaker of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, called the deal "shameful" and hoped the agreement contained other benefits for Israel which have not yet come to light.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich broke party ranks and took the rare position of praising the deal as "important for Israel" saying it improves defense. "Israel with a powerful strategic ally like Turkey is stronger and safer," she said, adding that if Netanyahu and Lieberman were in the opposition they would most likely have blasted the deal.

In response to a question posed by Meretz Knesset member Esawi Freige, Shaked also commented on the compensation from Israel that the reconciliation agreement provides to the families of those killed and injured on board the Mavi Marmara. "In this specific instance, there is no connection between the compensation and the event. IDF soldiers defended their lives because they were confronted with a scene with terrorists who had come with lethal equipment. The international report that dealt with the issue said this, as did investigation committees that we conducted. I am proud of the way in which IDF soldiers dealt with the Marmara."

Shaked's initial comments on the agreement with Turkey, she said, will be made at Wednesday's security cabinet meeting.

Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said if she were a member of the security cabinet, she would vote to approve the agreement. "The takeover of the Marmara was a just operation. The blockade of Gaza is legitimate, but as with other things, reality is more complicated and requires solutions. The agreement with Turkey is more proof that those who see themselves as security experts don't have a genuine response in the face of the threats. They can talk tough and scream at the world, but when the moment of truth comes, they choose the diplomatic, pragmatic path – our path." And with respect to the prime minister, she said: "Netanyahu is not strong in the face of Hamas. He just hesitates longer before he decides."

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called the reconciliation agreement "hard to digest," but said it was a security interest involved in signing it.