Barak Caves, Says Israel Should Apologize to Turkey
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday said Israel was "willing to consider apologizing" for problems that occurred during last year's raid of the Turkish flotilla ship the Mavi Marmara in which nine Turks were killed when they tried to lynch IDF commandos.
Speaking to reporters in Washington following a meeting with his US counterpart Leon Panetta, Barak said he would prefer to "come to an understanding" with Turkey rather than wait for the publication of a UN report on the incident, which he deemed "problematic for Israel."
"Defense Ministry and IDF legal advisers recommend that we come to an understanding with Turkey in order to protect commanders and soldiers from legal aaction," Barak stated.
"We are not apologizing for the blockade and we are not apologizing for using force," he said. "We are willing to consider apologizing for problems that occurred during the Marmara operation, if indeed their were such problems...I don't like it, but that is the choice that must be made," Barak added.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of Israel reaching a path to reconciliation with Turkey during an hour-long meeting with Barak on Thursday, Barak’s office said.
The issue was also raised in talks Barak held earlier in the day at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
The Obama administration – which believes a strong US-Israel-Turkey is critical for Middle East stability – has brought strong pressure to bear on Jerusalem to find a formula to end the crisis over the Mavi Marmara, according to diplomatic officials.
Barak's willingness to capitulate to Turkish demands and place American interests over those of Israel places him at odds with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who, to date, have maintained Israel will only "express regret" for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara.
Turkey is demanding Israel apologize for May 2010’s Mavi Marmara raid, pay compensation to the families of the nine men killed, and lift the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.