Daily Israel Report

Olmert: I Would've Apologized to Turkey

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suggested that he would have apologized to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/27/2012, 4:44 AM

Olmert at the Israel Business Conference
Olmert at the Israel Business Conference
Flash 90

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suggested that he would have apologized to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident, when nine Turks were killed during a 2010 attempt to violate the naval blockade on Gaza.

“If I were prime minister, I would have apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish people because civilians lost their lives,” Olmert said at a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported.

Olmert said if he were current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he would have contacted the Turkish government two days after the incident and held talks to deal with the situation.

The Marmara incident involved nine armed terror activists who attacked Israeli commandos in a clash aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship. 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.

The incident caused Israel’s relationship with Turkey, already strained, to break down completely. Turkish leaders demanded an apology, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has emphasized them Israel is ready to solve any outstanding disputes with Turkey, but it will not apologize to Ankara for the raid on the Mavi Marmara.

Turkey plans to try four top IDF commanders for the Marmara raid.

The accused officials are: Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy Chief Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former Air Force Intelligence Chief Avishai Levy.

The trial was due to start in November, but it has been adjourned until February.

Netanyahu told Turkish reporters several months ago that Turkey and Israel are looking for ways to normalize political relations.