While the government has thus far refused to apologize to Turkey over a clash aboard a Gaza-bound boat in 2010, senior cabinet ministers are divided on the matter. Foremost among them are Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak; the former staunchly opposes an apology, while the latter supports it.
“This is not a legal matter, but rather a political issue, and is not a question of defending IDF soldiers but of neglecting them, of irresponsibility on the diplomatic level,” Lieberman said Thursday. “If there is an apology, that means admitting defeat on the battlefield and the political field.”
“In that case, Israel would be sending a message of weakness, confusion, and an inability to stand up to pressure,” he argued.
Barak, on the other hand, says Israel should do what is necessary to restore ties with Turkey, including apologize as Turkish leaders demand.
Supporting Barak's position are Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who advocates apologizing for “operational mistakes” but not for stopping the Gaza-bound flotilla. Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, on the other hand, strongly opposes an apology.
“Apologizing is taking responsibility. There is no room in my mind for any kind of apology that means taking responsibility,” he said Thursday. The government is prepared “to regret the loss of lives,” he added, but that is unlikely to satisfy Turkish leaders.
Reuters reported Thursday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to reach a decision on the issue. Netanyahu has previously stated that Israel will not apologize.
Turkey is demanding an apology over a 2010 incident in which Turkish citizens were killed after attacking IDF soldiers. The Turkish activists had attempted to forcibly violate an IDF naval blockade on Hamas, and stabbed and beat soldiers who attempted to turn their boat toward Ashdod.
Soldiers responded by opening fire, killing nine. Turkey then cut off ties with Israel, insisting that ties would resume only if Israel were to apologize, compensate the families of the nine attackers who were killed, and end the naval blockade on Hamas.
An Israeli probe into the incident found that the IDF made mistakes in preparing for the 2010 flotilla, but that soldiers acted properly in responding to the unexpected violence. A United Nations probe due to be released next week has reportedly criticized soldiers for using lethal force, but upheld Israel's right to impose and maintain a naval blockade on Gaza in order to prevent Hamas from importing weapons.
The naval blockade is supported by Israel's past agreements with the Palestinian Authority as well as by international law. Land crossings to Gaza are open to both goods and human travel.