Despite recent reports that Israel’s ties with Turkey are warming up, Turkey’s prime minister once again said last week that Israel must apologize for raiding the Mavi Marmara during last year’s Gaza flotilla.
Reuters reported on the weekend that Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his insistence that Israel must apologize for the raid and lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip if it wants to normalize ties.
“Normalization of relations between the two countries is unthinkable unless Israel apologizes for this illegal act, which is against all international law and values, pays compensation to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this atrocious event and lifts the embargo on Gaza,” Erdogan was quoted by Reuters as having said during a speech to parliament on Friday.
Turkey has continuously been adamant that Israel apologize for the incident, which occurred during when the Mavi Marmara tried to break the naval blockade on Gaza, claiming that it was carrying humanitarian aid for the residents of the Strip. When the ship’s captain refused Israel’s orders to change course, IDF soldiers were forced to board the ship, at which point the so-called “peace activists” on board attacked the soldiers with clubs and attempted to kidnap them. The soldiers had no choice but to fire their weapons, resulting in the deaths of nine people.
It was later discovered that there was no humanitarian aid whatsoever on the Mavi Marmara.
The incident caused a major rift in Israel’s relationship with Turkey, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to apologize for the raid.
A recent report in the Turkish Hürriyet Daily newspaper, however, suggested that Israel is responding warmly to Turkey, particularly since the IHH organization announced it would be dropping out of the planned “Freedom Flotilla 2” to Gaza.
The Hürriyet also claimed that Netanyahu had accepted Turkey’s request for an apology over the Marmara incident, but backed out on three separate occasions due to fear his coalition might fall. This was not confirmed elsewhere.
Erdogan’s Friday speech came ahead of the expected release of a UN report on the Gaza flotilla. The Palmer report had been expected to be published on July 7 but was delayed last week due to a disagreement between Israel and Turkey in talks.
The impasse reportedly centered on Turkish concerns over clauses in the report accusing Ankara of having ties with the IHH as well as direct involvement in the flotilla.
It was also reported that Palmer will say that Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is indeed legal and will praise the Israeli Turkel Commission, while being sharply critical of the governmental committee set up by Turkey to probe the flotilla.
A Turkish official told Reuters on Friday that Turkey believes that the Palmer report should not deviate from the UN Human Rights Council report issued last September. That report condemned Israel for the Marmara incident, terming its response to the attempt to defy its blockade of Hamas “disproportionate and brutal,” and suggesting that Israel be prosecuted for “willful killing.” The report accused Israel of “a series of violations of international law.”
“We are expecting any legal element mentioned in the report regarding the blockade not to contradict the established rules of the international law and not to contradict the report published by the UN Human Rights' Council,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.