Israel ready to talk, but no apology: Lieberman

Israel ready to talk, but no apology: Lieberman

JERUSALEM - Hürriyet Daily News
Israel ready to talk, but no apology: Lieberman

The Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, reveals that he is fond of the Turkish coffee after a meeting with a group of Turkish journalists. ‘Unlike Greece, we call Turkish coffee the Turkish coffee, and here we have coffee brand called Turkey,’ he says showing the coffee pod.

Israel is ready to solve any outstanding disputes with its former ally Turkey, but it will not apologize to Ankara for a deadly May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship, the country’s foreign minister has said.

“As Israel, we are ready to discuss [our problems with Turkey] in high-level or low-level open meetings,” Avigdor Lieberman said during a July 22 meeting at his office in Jerusalem with a group of journalists from Turkey. “We’re really ready to discuss not only this issue [Mavi Marmara] but also the Iranian problem, the Gaza Strip [issue] or the support for [Gaza’s ruler] Hamas. But [we’re not ready] to discuss in what way we will protect our citizens,” the minister said.

The meeting was Lieberman’s first with a Turkish delegation since the 2010 attack, the minister’s spokesperson said. Lieberman said his country had no reason to apologize for the raid – something the Turkish government sees as a must if it is to restore ties with Israel – for the attack which killed eight Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish origin who were bringing aid to Palestine.

Mavi Marmara, a clear provocation: Lieberman

“[The Mavi Marmara mission] was a clear provocation and it was our right to protect the lives of our soldiers. Frankly speaking, Israel has no reason to apologize,” he said.

“Even if Israel apologizes for the attack, that will change nothing,” Lieberman said. “During his speeches in Parliament, Mr. [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has repeatedly said that an apology will not improve the relations and that [Turkey] has additional conditions. Turkey has a long [list of] other conditions, including the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, [returning] to the border lines before 1967, compensation, et cetera. But this is not the best way to settle disagreements.”

Israel has no conditions for facilitating a thaw in Turkish-Israeli ties, the hawkish Soviet-born Israeli politician said.

Confirming that “some contacts” between Turkey and Israel have been held in the past to solve the dispute, Lieberman said he had personally tried to arrange a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu without success.

“I think the picture is very bad. [But] we don’t have any disputes with Turkey – [either] territorial or historical. The opposite is true. The Jewish people have lived for hundreds of years in [Turkey] in safety, even during World War II,” he said.

Row was Erdoğan’s strategic decision

Describing the Mavi Marmara attack as “an accident,” Lieberman said the dispute with Turkey had not started with the current Israeli government but with the “dovish” ex-prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

The row, which brought Turkey’s ties with Israel to their historic low level, stemmed from “a strategic decision” by Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, Lieberman said. “[Erdoğan] thinks the best way to be the leader of the Islamic world is to confront Israel. It is the same regarding the issue of the Gaza blockade,” he said.

Turkey vociferously criticized Israel under Olmert after Tel Aviv launched an operation against Gaza in late 2007.

In the past two years, Erdoğan’s speeches on Israel have gone beyond criticism to the point of insult, he said. “[Still] we are really trying to keep silent despite every verbal attack against Israel from Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Davutoğlu, and we are still trying not to create unnecessary tensions.”

Asked how the deadlock would end, he pointed to the healing power of time. “Sometimes, it will take more years, sometimes less. Even if we have disputes, we can resolve disputes in different ways but not [in a way] like cutting diplomatic relations, or calling ambassadors back to the capitals, or provoking each other.”

For Turkey and Israel, there are more reasons for returning to normal relations, Lieberman said. “The demand of an apology is only an excuse.”

Arab Spring biggest event since 1989: Israeli FM

The uprisings in the Arab world are the biggest world event since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said, adding that he hoped the events would produce democracy.

“Today, it is clear that the main reason [for the protests] is about poverty, misery, injustice and the lack of hope. And despite the ongoing tensions, Israel has succeeded in keeping the situation under control,” he said July 22, adding that Israel was ready to share its experiences.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the Arab Spring, Lieberman said. “For a strong economy and a democracy, one has to have a strong middle class, like in the Scandinavian countries. In order to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the first thing to do is to improve their economies.”

Asked about how the Palestinian economy would develop under the tight Israeli blockade, he said the siege was necessary to counter “radical movements, such as Hamas.” “The Arab world avoids real challenges in their society. It is much easier to blame Israel for their problems, particularly among the crowds.”

‘Syria rebels refused help’

Israel has offered assistance to the Syrian opposition, but the forces aiming at toppling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime rejected it, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said July 22. “We offered humanitarian assistance but they rejected it. Everybody has told us that it is much better to keep the distance,” he said. “We don’t want to impose ourselves on the Syrian opposition. It is impossible to impose ourselves on somebody. We can only suggest but cannot impose.” Asked whether Israel had any details about a Turkish jet downed last month by Syria, Lieberman said he did not know whether it was shot down by an anti-missile or anti-aircraft rocket. “I don’t know. But al-Assad openly took the responsibility.”