Israel Offered $6 Million to Victims of Gaza Flotilla Raid, Say Turkish Lawyers

One of several lawyers representing 465 victims and victims' relatives of the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid says Israel made proposal to him through an intermediary foreign ambassador a month ago.

A Turkish lawyer said on Thursday that Israel had offered to pay $6 million to victims of Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla to settle lawsuits against the Israeli military.

Ramazan Ariturk, one of several lawyers representing 465 victims and victims' relatives, told Reuters that the Israeli government had made a proposal to him through an intermediary foreign ambassador in Ankara just over one month ago.

He said the money would have been paid to a Jewish foundation in Turkey for distribution, and been followed by a statement of "regret" for the raid by the Israeli government.

"I told the ambassador I did not think the offer was appropriate or moral and also discussed the issue with the victims and their friends and they also stated that they could not accept this," Ariturk said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry agreed with his decision, saying Israel should have contacted it directly, he said. Ariturk declined to disclose the nationality of the ambassador or reveal the name of the Jewish foundation to which the payment would have been made.

However, a senior Israeli official who declined to be named said that Israel, having indicated last year that it was prepared to indemnify victims without accepting blame, had not renewed its offer.

Sources in the Turkish foreign ministry told Haaretz that they had not been officially approached by any Israeli officials, although, "If Israel had presented such an offer, it would have been considered seriously. In principal, there is no problem, to arrive at an understanding over the issue of damages, and actually a year ago we already reached an agreement over how to pay out damages, and according to this agreement, payment will be made through the Turkish government, and not directly to families in order to prevent recurring claims and long legal proceedings."

"However, controversy still remains the question of apology. Israel is opposed to declaring publicly that it apologizes and Turkey is not prepared to accept a wording of regret that does not include taking responsibility, that is required in an expression of apology," the sources said.

Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip in May 2010. Nine Turks were killed in clashes aboard the ship.

The raid proved a watershed moment in Israel-Turkey relations, with the once staunch allies trading blame over responsibility for the incident. Turkey has insisted that Israel apologize for the raid and its consequences, as well as pay reparations to the families of those killed.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and froze all military cooperation with its former ally after a UN report into the incident last September largely exonerated Israel.

Turkey has demanded a formal apology from Israel alongside compensation for victims and the families of the dead, but Netanyahu has only voiced "regret".

On Wednesday an Istanbul prosecutor submitted an indictment seeking life sentences for four former Israeli military commanders in connection with the raid, including the Chief of General Staff at the time.

The UN report on the raid last September was meant to encourage a rapprochement but ultimately deepened the rift when it concluded Israel had used unreasonable force but that its blockade of Gaza was legal

Israel said its marines had been attacked by activists wielding metal bars, clubs and knives when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, and had opened fire in self-defense.

Read this article in Hebrew

Turkish activists with pictures of victims of the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.