Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated his refusal to heal his breach with the State of Israel, but the tone of the remarks as reported in the daily Hurriyet seemed softer than in the past -- and than those reported in other more extremist media.
"Asked about the current state of Israeli-Turkish relations, Erdoğan said Israel only had ties with one Muslim country and suggested that Tel Aviv should maintain good relations with Turkey," the daily Hürriyet reported. "They sent the richest Jewish man in the world [to us] a couple of months ago," he boasted. "What was the reason? He was supposed to be intercessor,” said Erdogan, according to the report.
According to the report published Thursday, Erdogan listed three conditions for restoring ties with the Jewish State, continuing to demand a straightforward apology from Israel for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident that left nine terror activists dead, compensation paid to their families, and that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza. None of the conditions are new.
Israel maintains tight control over the border with Gaza for security reasons: since its withdrawal from the region in August 2005, more than 9,000 lethal rockets and missiles have been fired at Israeli civilians by Gaza terrorists, and murderous terror attacks on civilian communities emanating from Gaza are commonplace. Nevertheless, Israel's border with Gaza -- ruled by the Hamas terrorist organization since June 2007 -- has a number of crossings which are open each day through which various foodstuffs and other supplies are shipped into the region. International aid workers and other people, including authorized Palestinian Authority Arabs bearing permits, travel in and out as well -- usually for employment or medical reasons, but on rare occasions also for holiday visits.
Turkey has its own difficulties with a terrorist element in its midst; the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) terror organization has for decades carried out a systematic campaign of attacks designed to harry and batter the government into agreeing to allow Kurdish separatists to create their own independent state in the southeastern sector of the country. Ankara has not folded in the face of this campaign of violence, nor does Erdogan, who leads the ruling AK Party, make any secret of his intent to crush the terror group at the first opportunity. Some 500 suspected members of the PKK have been killed in one month by Turkish security forces in operations against the militants, Erdogan said Thursday, according to AFP. "In operations held during the past month, some 500 militants were rendered ineffective in the (southeast) region," Erdoğan said in remarks televised by the NTV news channel.
In an effort to restore relations, an Israeli delegation comprised of Shas MKs, international rabbis and Bar Ilan University lecturer Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an expert in Middle East affairs, quietly traveled to Turkey last month to meet with select parliamentarians and other political leaders. A source involved in the talks between the parties told Arutz Sheva that although participants on both sides were clear about their desire to put an end to the friction, “it is equally clear the issues dividing the parties... may keep it that way for some time.”
The incident over which Erdogan is relentlessly standing on principle involved nine armed terror activists who attacked Israeli commandos in a clash aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship in 2010. The vessel, owned by the Turkish IHH group, was one of six sent to illegally breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza as a “humanitarian flotilla” but was found to be carrying nothing. When the vessels ignored repeated Israeli navy requests to redirect their boats to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to force them to port, where the humanitarian aid they were allegedly carrying could be off-loaded and carried to Gaza through the land crossings with Israel.
In the case of the Mavi Marmara, however, the Israeli soldiers – armed only with pistols and paint-ball training guns -- were brutally attacked by the “activists” as they boarded, with several critically injured. The commandos who followed them shot and killed their attackers, leaving nine dead.