Barak on Turkey Crisis: This Too Shall Pass
Defense Minister Ehud Barak believes that Israel's currently troubled relationship with Turkey will improve in the future. In an interview with Israel Radio Thursday morning Barak said that he did not believe that Turkey was turning into an enemy of Israel.
Barak expressed regret at the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, repeating Israel's position as had been laid out by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, several times in the past. However, he said, Israel had been justified in using force against the ships in the 2010 flotilla. “Even the Palmer Report pointed out that the IDF was operating legally, and we have no reason or need to apologize for defending ourselves from the influx of weapons headed for Gaza,” Barak said. Regardless, he said, an apology was no longer relevant, as more than a year had passed since the incident.
Earlier this week, Turkey suspended all defense and government trade with Israel, and asked Israel to remove most of its diplomatic staff from the country. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel must apologize and pay compensation to the families of the Hamas-affiliated activists who were killed on the Mavi Maramara when the ship tried to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. As a condition of restoring relations, Erdogan added, Israel must also lift the blockade altogether.
The United Nations investigative panel examining the events surrounding the flotilla, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, declared that the blockade was legal. "Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law," said the report, released last week.
"Ultimately this wave will pass. We recognize reality. They recognize reality," Barak said in the interview. "We are the two countries that are most important to the West in the region. I am certain that we can overcome these (disagreements). The main thing is not to get confused, not to get into a tailspin. Turkey is not about to become an enemy of Israel and we have no cause to waste invective and energy over this."