Ankara lost opportunity in Gaza crisis: senior Israeli diplomat

Ankara lost opportunity in Gaza crisis: senior Israeli diplomat

İrem Köker Hürriyet / JERUSALEM
Ankara lost opportunity in Gaza crisis: senior Israeli diplomat

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.