Meridor: Avoid Saber-Rattling With Turkey
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor cautioned Turkey on Friday over its challenge to Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, but stressed that Israel was not interested in a war of words with its once-close ally.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday set the stage for a potential naval showdown, declaring that Turkish warships would escort future convoys to Gaza.
"The things Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said are harsh and serious, but I don't think it would be right to get into any verbal saber-rattling with him," Meridor told Army Radio. "Our silence is the best response. I hope this phenomenon will pass.”
Ankara downgraded diplomatic relations and vowed to boost naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean after Israel refused to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks who were a part of a mob that attempted to lynch Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara in 2010 when the ship tried to breach the Gaza blockade.
Meridor noted an inquiry commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had vindicated Israel's Gaza-blockade, calling it a "legal and approriate" in order to prevent weapons from reaching terror groups in the coastal region.
"Turkey, which claims that Israel is not above international law, needs to understand that neither is it (above international law). A UN committee has determined that the blockade is legal," he said.
But as the deputy premier called for a calm and measured attitude response Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters he is planning a series of commensurate measures in response to recent Turkish moves.
Lieberman's proposed measures include a travel advisory warning Israelis, especially those who served in the IDF, against visits to Turkey; strengthening of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey, including the supply of arms; cooperation with the Armenians, Turkey's historical rivals; and diplomatic warfare against Turkey in the international arena.
The United States has been hoping to ease tensions between its two main allies in the Middle East.
Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, told Israel Radio: "We are encouraging both countries to find a way to work together to overcome their differences and restore at least some of the friendship that they previously had."
Earlier this week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel and Turkey will eventually mend fences rather than become foes, describing the spat over Gaza as "spilled milk."