Erdogan Tries to Extort Israel, Again
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is considering downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel, the Hurriyet newpaper reported Monday.
Describing the move as "Plan B," the paper said Erdogan would downgrade the level of Turkey's diplomatic staff in Israel if Israel continues to refuse to apologize for the death's of 9 Turkish nationals aboard the Mavi Marmara during the 2010 Gaza Flotilla.
The nine Turks were killed by Israeli forces when they attempted to lynch members of Israel's Shayatet-13, or naval commando, when they boarded the Mavi Marmara in accordance with international maritime law. Israel has said it will only 'express regret' for the loss of life.
On Sunday, Erdogan said that he still expects a full apology from Jerusalem, "We will wait for the Israelis' decision a certain period. If they don't apologize by this time we shall move to plan b."
According to Hurriyet, "Plan B" means cooling down relations with Israel. One of the most significant steps will be downgrading the level of Turkey's embassy staff in Israel. Ankara recalled its ambassador following last year's flotilla event.
It is also possible Turkey will not approve an Israeli ambassador to replace Gaby Levy.
On Sunday, Hurriyet reported that the Palmer Report has ruled that IDF soldiers boarded the ship with "the intent to kill,' despite the fact that the commandos were armed with less-than-lethal pneumatic guns with live fire being employed only after the lynching attempt was underway.
Hurriyet's claim is spurious as the Palmer Report's publication was delayed until August due to Israel and Turkey's inability to agree on the final wording of the report, including Turkey's insistence it include the phrase 'intent to kill.'
Recent drafts of the report, however, did conclude Israel's arms embargo on Gaza – and the decision to board the Mavi Marmara to enforce it – are legal under international law.
Observers suggest Erdogan's second attempt to extort an apology from Israel is based on his frustration with the Palmer Report, which does not support Turkey's - or Hurriyet's - version of events.