Israel argues Turkey killed ‘apology’ deal

Israel argues Turkey killed ‘apology’ deal

JERUSALEM - Hürriyet Daily News
Israel argues Turkey killed ‘apology’ deal

This file photo shows ‘Mavi Marmara,’ raided in 2010, docked in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo

A senior Israeli official has revealed details of a now-dead deal aimed at restoring ties between Turkey and Israel after the latter’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, in which Turkish citizens were killed, saying that the agreement included the world “apology.”

Yigal Palmor, a spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, also told a group of Turkish journalists in Jerusalem earlier this week that the deal was put on hold at the very last minute before being voted on by the Israeli Cabinet. This was due to “additional conditions” set by senior Turkish government officials.

Admitting that now there is “no concrete plan” to restore ties between the two countries, Palmor also revealed the long-discussed wording of the planned deal on the issue: “If possible operational mistakes led to unintentional damage and unintentional loss of life, then Israel apologizes.” The spokesperson also underlined the fact that it was an agreement that “included an ‘if,’” and it was not intended to state as a fact that something wrong had happened as a direct result of Israeli policy.

However, the agreement had lost its credibility before it was put to a vote by the Israeli Cabinet, Palmor said, due to the additional conditions later publicly set by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “While it was being discussed by the Israeli Cabinet, Mr. Erdoğan made a statement in which he called on Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Later, a high-ranking Turkish official, it may have been Mr. Erdoğan again, said the government would not pursue prosecution of the Israeli soldiers involved in the raid, but that they could not give guarantees for other parties. Those were additional conditions,” Palmor said. Following these statements, the deal was shelved, Palmor said.

The “apology” agreement was sought by the Turkish government from Israel for the May 2010 killings of eight Turkish citizens and one U.S. citizen of Turkish origin aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla. The wording of the agreement has been much debated in Turkey, with several different news reports suggesting it included the word “apology” or other similar but mild expressions for the death of the Turkish citizens.

Compensation to families

The planned agreement, which was negotiated by Turkish and Israeli diplomats in Geneva, had many layers, said Palmor. “According to the plan, Israel was supposed to announce an agreed formula that would be satisfactory for both sides, to agree with the [U.N.’s] Palmer Report before it was published, and to agree to pay compensation to the families of victims through a joint Turkish-Israeli fund,” he said.

The U.N.’s Palmer Report on the Mavi Marmara said Israel had used unreasonable force in the raid, but that its naval blockade of Gaza was legal. Written by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the report maintained that the Gaza blockade was justified by serious security threats posed to Israel by Palestinian militants.

According to the spokesperson, Turkey, in return, agreed to restore diplomatic ties to their previous level, to declare it had no claims left on the issue, and to announce it would not pursue the prosecution of the Israeli soldiers who were involved in the raid. But, following the statements from Turkey, the deal was never submitted to the Israeli Cabinet for voting, Palmor said.

Acknowledging that there is a very strong disagreement between the two countries, Palmor also said that the friction was made worse by the fact that there are also personal dislikes and feelings of mistrust between senior Turkish and Israeli officials. Still, he said, Israel believes in its ties with Turkey.
 “We want to have strong ties with Turkey, and we have not given up on relations with Turkey. We need to work on it. We do want to extend our hand to Turkey. We need to understand what is hurting each other. The doors are open,” Palmor said.