Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, visiting Italy, held out an olive branch on Monday for Turkey following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's re-election. Erdogan won the poll by a smaller majority than he hoped for.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, its best regional friend until two years ago, have deteriorated to the point that Turkey openly supports Hamas and Syria and backs the terror-linked IHH organization that is sponsoring a re-run of the last year’s disastrous flotilla aimed at breaking the maritime embargo on Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Buoyed by his pro-Israel host, Italian Prime Silvio Berlusconi, the Israeli leader said the fact that Turkey holds elections deserves praise because “it’s not something to take for granted” in the Middle East. He added, "We will always try to fix what's broken, and to fix and end the deterioration" in ties with Turkey.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon went several steps further and called on Erdogan to lead a “responsible government [that] will not act against international law and will stop its citizens from entering dangerous zones.”
Ayalon added, “This election is an occasion to open a new page. This doesn’t depend on us, but on the Turks, and we hope to see from them a policy that is more thought-out and balanced and responsible. It’s clear that we don’t want to see encouragement on the part of the Turkish government towards a provocative flotilla,” which is scheduled to set sail later this month.
Last year’s flotilla ended in a deadly clash with Israeli Navy commandos when approximately 40 IHH terror activists savagely attacked the soldiers when they boarded their ship to make sure it would change course from Gaza. The commandos killed nine of the attackers before restoring order on the boat.
The new Turkish government will be headed by Erdogan for the third time, but he fell far short of the needed two-thirds majority in the legislature that would have enabled him to change the constitution without a referendum.
Turkey still backs the new flotilla, but Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week showed a softer stand and suggested that the flotilla’s aid for Gaza be delivered overland and without provoking another confrontation.
The Mavi Marmara ship, on which the terror activists attack the Navy commandos last year, eventually docked in Ashdod, where authorities discovered that it was not carrying any humanitarian aid.