Livni to CNNTürk: If Turkey Wants Peace, It Can't Be With Hamas

Livni: Israel, too, has a sense of national pride, but the time has come to see how relations can be improved; not only Israel but also Turkey needs the bilateral relationship.

In the first interview with an Israeli leader by a Turkish-based media outlet since the crisis with Ankara worsened, Tzipi Livni has told CNNTürk that the time has come for the two countries to talk about the future rather than the past. Turkey, unlike Hamas, wants peace, she said, and if Turkey wants to be part of the peace camp, it can't be with Hamas.

Israel, too, has a sense of national pride, the opposition leader said yesterday, but the time has come to see how relations can be improved. Not only Israel but also Turkey needs the bilateral relationship, she added.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated after Israel's Gaza offensive at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. Ties sank markedly last year when Israel's navy stormed the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla to Gaza that was trying to breach the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. In the confrontation on board, eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin were killed.

A UN commission report, disclosed by The New York Times last week, called Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip legal. It noted that the Mavi Marmara's passengers put up violent resistance, but that the commandos used undue force. Israel has expressed regret over the deaths, but has refused to apologize as Turkey has demanded.

In the television interview yesterday, Livni said that after decades of relations between the two countries, the time has come to conduct ties less emotionally. It was time for the leaders to discuss their interests, which she said means overcoming the current crisis. She called for the leaders to meet privately rather than exchange public accusations.

Hamas was in large part responsible for the crisis, Livni said, noting that Israel had launched Operation Cast Lead to protect the country from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Even when leaders have differences of opinion, the people should not pay the price.

Livni noted that Israel had expressed regret for the harm caused to Turkish civilians, but also said Israeli soldiers were acting to protect Israeli civilians. She said the two countries had common values and goals in the region and both sides must show leadership to halt the deterioration in relations.