In the wake of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new demands on Israel following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology to Turkey for the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, Netanyahu has come under fire by some Israeli leaders. Israel’s raid on the ship that was ostensibly attempting to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza left nine Turkish citizens dead. Those Turks reportedly attacked Israeli soldiers on board.
Erdogan, clarifying initial reports that Turkey-Israel ties had been normalized following his conversation – at the behest of President Obama – with Netanyahu, said that those ties would not be fully restored until Israel provides financial compensation for the deaths and ends its blockade on Gaza.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economics and trade, wrote on Facebook that Erdogan “is doing everything he can to make Israel regret” the apology.
“Let there be no doubt: no nation is doing Israel a favor by renewing ties with it. It should also be clear to Erdogan that if Israel encounters in the future any terrorism directed against us, our response will be no less severe,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett expressed his support for Israeli soldiers by writing that they “always do everything – and I mean everything – to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.”
Addressing the Israel Defense Forces, Bennett wrote, “This is your job. We’ll deal with the rest. The people of Israel stand behind you, we are always with you.”
According to Israel Hayom, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said that the apology to Turkey was a mistake because “the more you give them the feeling that they are on the side of justice, the higher their level of violence rises.”
Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told JNS.org that Netanyahu’s apology was in error because Turkey “will not reverse its policies” and “will drag [out] the negotiations on compensation in order not to allow for an exchange of ambassadors.” Inbar called Erdogan’s recent announcement that he will visit Gaza in April “a slap in our face.”
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center, called the apology “pathetic pandering to an Islamic extremist who compared Zionism to fascism and is still trying to indict Israeli officers for war crimes.”
In a statement, Darshan-Leitner said: “The United Nations has investigated the Israeli blockade of Gaza and has determined that it is in full compliance with international law. The flotilla, which was providing material support by the Turkish government, was a provocation designed to endanger the lives of Israeli sailors.”
In the U.S. Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Israel education group StandWithUs, told JNS.org that the apology itself “was an extraordinary gesture of good faith on Israel’s part,” but that Erdogan’s reaction shows how this is a situation of “give a little, and the other side [Turkey] will take a lot.
“Watching the video of the [flotilla] incident, one can easily see that the Israeli soldiers that lowered themselves onto the deck of the flotilla never expected to be beaten with clubs and nearly murdered by the waiting violent militants,” Rothstein said. “Were there other ways that Israel could have stopped a belligerent boat headed towards its shores? Certainly. Israel made mistakes. One wonders how America might have dealt with this. But if you watch the video of the [Turkish NGO] IHH people who talked about ‘kill or be killed’ on the Turkish flotilla just before it sailed for Israeli waters, one understands that the intent of the IHH members was anything but peaceful. The bottom line is that the Turkish IHH flotilla participants own responsibility for what occurred.”
Netanyahu’s flotilla apology drew praise from several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Merkel called the apology a “correct and brave step” by Israel.
(JNS, with reporting by Israel Hayom)