Lieberman: Israel Will Not Allow Its Officers to Be Terrorized by Turkey

Foreign Minister urges European nations to 'put Turkey back in its place' after a Turkish court charged four IDF officers for deaths of nine activists in 2010 Gaza flotilla.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday in a meeting with German President Joachim Gauck that despite Turkey's vicious tongue-lashing against Israel over the past few years, Jerusalem has been behaving with "maximum restraint toward the Turkish provocations."

Lieberman added that despite Israel's restraint, it will not allow its officers and soldiers to be terrorized, for they acted completely justifiably and in accordance with international law, as was also determined by the UN's international investigatory committee into the Gaza flotilla.

"We hope that the European nations will not cooperate with the Turkish provocation of baseless indictments against the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and other senior officers," Lieberman told Gauck, who is visiting Jerusalem. "We hope the European nations will put Turkey back in its place and prevent wild behavior by the NATO member that has gone off course and is behaving contradictorily to all acceptable international laws."

"Israel will continue behaving responsibly and will not be drawn into counter-provoking (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, out of a care for peace and stability in the Middle East," said Lieberman.

The foreign minister's comments came after a Turkish court formally pressed charges on Monday against four former top IDF officers over the killing of nine people aboard a Turkish ship trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza in 2010.

The court in Istanbul voted unanimously to approve an indictment against Israel's former military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, along with the former heads of its navy, air force intelligence, and military intelligence, Eliezer Marom, Amos Yadlin, and Avishai Levi, the Anadolu Agency said. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for "inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing," according to Turkey's state-run news agency.

It is unlikely Israeli military members will be brought before Turkey's judicial system, since Israel does not regard them as criminals. If they are convicted in absentia at the end of the trial process, which could take months if not years, the Turkish court could issue an order for their arrest, but such a move would be symbolic and not binding.

Israel did not respond officially to the submission of a Turkish indictment, but a foreign ministry official stated anonymously on Monday that the indictment reflects a tailspin in relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. "Erdogan is systematically killing relations between the two states," the official said.

Former Chief of Staff Ashkenazi released a response saying that "Turkey is an important state, and it shares with Israel a common interest in stability in the Middle East, and I am sure that in the end common sense will prevail." Ashkenazi added that "from the start of this affair I chose to appear in every forum, and defend IDF soldiers and the IDF itself; the soldiers and the army carried out its mission in the field, for the benefit of the state."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, right, with German President Joachim Gauck, May 29, 2012.
Yossi Zamir