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POLITICS > Ankara lost opportunity in Gaza crisis: senior Israeli diplomat

İrem Köker Hürriyet / JERUSALEM

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Yigal Palmor. AA Photo

Yigal Palmor. AA Photo

Ankara lost a great opportunity by not initiating contact with Israel during the Gaza crisis last November, a senior Israeli diplomat has said.

“The Turkish government could have played a mediating role but it refused to do so. The situation itself invited Turkey to play a major role, not at the expense of Egypt,” Yigal Palmor, Foreign Ministry spokesman, recently told daily Hürriyet.

“Parallel to Egypt it was so obvious that Turkey had a role to play, but they chose not to do so. They only talked to the Egyptians and Hamas, but they never talked to us. This was a great lost opportunity,” he added.

When asked about Turkish officials statements that Turkey had contacted Israel during the crisis, Palmor said the contacts had not gone very far. “There were contacts, that’s true, but Turkey chose not to play a role in the mediation or providing guarantees or ideas for a cease-fire. They were preliminary contacts to see whether there was something to talk about, but it never matured into anything. It was during the week of the operation and maybe a few days after it, but that’s it,” he said.

Israel launched an offensive, which it said was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the killing of a senior Hamas military leader.

 ‘Deliberate intention from Turkey’

When reminded about a recent statement by a deputy foreign minister in which it was said that Israel was ready to send a letter – such as the one Washington recently sent to Islamabad over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers - in order to mend ties with Turkey, Palmor said he was surprised the statement had made headlines.

“I was quite surprised that Danny Ayalon’s statement made the headlines, because he said nothing new. He only repeated what Mr. Lieberman [Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman] said three or four months ago in public in front of the camera. He said he was willing to accept the same formula that the Americans used with Pakistan. He said if the Turks accepted it he would be OK with it. Danny Ayalon only repeated this,” Palmor said.

Ties between two countries have been frozen since the Mavi Marmara raid that resulted in the killing of nine civilians by Israeli commandos in 2010.

Palmor criticized Turkey’s stance on negotiating a deal over the deadly raid. “There was a compromise on the table. Then we suspected that this would not lead us to restore relations, because there was a deliberate intention on the part of the Turkish government to downgrade relations with Israel as much as possible. This was a strategic choice by the Turkish government. There will always be a reason for the Turkish government to maintain relations at a very low key and to downgrade the relations as much as possible. This is the analysis here in Jerusalem,” he said.

January/22/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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Baris

1/24/2013 1:47:35 AM

Of course it is the other major democracy in the area. Israel has free elections, free press and a more robust democracy than Turkey. According to the Democracy index 2011 compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Israel ranks 36 and Turkey 88. I'm not talking about what Israel does in the occupied territories, which is clearly appalling. I also agree with your comments on the Mavi Marmara. However, as a state, Israel offers more democracy to its citizens than Turkey does.

Murat

1/23/2013 10:01:06 PM

What is truly apalling is murder of unarmed civilians on Mavi Marmara. What is really inappropriate is Bibi pinning medals on the killers. I will take bad manners any day. Let us also remember what kind of a state Mr. Peres presides over.

Murat

1/23/2013 9:24:31 PM

Other major democratic country? I strongly disagree.

Baris

1/23/2013 6:12:37 PM

Mara, I’ve already acknowledged Erdogan’s inappropriate behaviour. As for MPs fistfighting in the Turkish parliament, Knesset also has its share of bad behaviour. Haneen Zoabi’s speech and the Michaeli water throwing incident come to mind. There’s also the classic ‘Low Chair Diplomacy’. The problems for Turkey started with op’n cast lead, which means that’s when they started for Israel as well, since good relations require both side's trust. That incident is what soured the relationship.

mara mcglothin

1/23/2013 4:02:54 PM

BARIS Whether RTE was betrayed or not, that is no reason to act in such a manner for the World to see. When have you ever seen any senior representative of a country act in such a manner for the whole World to see? It may have started earlier for Turkey, but this is clearly when it began for Israel. Peres is NOT Netanyahu or Leiberman, and even if he was then it still would have been inappropriate behavior. I guess is it all par for the course since MPs in Turkey fistfight in Parliament.

Baris

1/23/2013 2:44:50 PM

mara mcglothin, I agree that the "one minute" incident was not very appropriate for a PM. However, the problems between Israel and Turkey started before that event. It all started after operation cast lead, which not only caused many civilian casualties, but also jeopardised the peace process between Israel and Syria, which Turkey spent a lot of effort negotiating. Erdogan felt he was betrayed.

mara mcglothin

1/23/2013 12:40:51 AM

TURK UZAN It all started when RTE decided to shake his finger in from of Mr Peres' face. That was a boorish deplorable act that for a "Turk" who is all strungout about there honor should have never committed. Imagine someone waving their finger in RTE's face. If Turkey had taken the high road, Israel would have had no chance not to come to the table.

ilker avni

1/22/2013 7:50:07 PM

people seem to forget that all Israel has todo is simple "APOLOGISE" if you want to reume relations.The AKP party is right to keep relations on a low par.Trade with Israel is normal worth 8 billion to Israel,which has not been effected.Israel has lost a good frend thanks to Israels right wing goverments.Turkey is still protecting Israel though with Nato,s radar system in Turkey,As for for the Palenstinians Turkey is acting for the Palenstinians and their rights to statehood and for peace.

Thessalonian

1/22/2013 7:10:51 PM

While I agree with Baris on the value(s) to be found in having Israel as an ally, I feel compelled in stating that the islamist mindset of Turkey's AKP has made such venture most unlikely by issuing rediculous, impractical and non mutually beneficial terms and conditions. Terms and conditions which Israel cannot, will not and should not accept as they would threaten its very own existence. By the way, the MM provocation was not the beginning of Mr. Erdogan's hostile predisposition. Regards

john albay

1/22/2013 6:46:09 PM

The evil israeli zionist still dont understand,they murdered 9 Turks on the high seas in an act of terrorism,and Turkey will not deal with them,or will not help them in any way! They know what they have to do before Turkey will start talking to them again, say sorry and pay compersation,before that nothing will happen!!
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