A flotilla participant from the Mavi Marmara who is likely to receive funds from Israel in a compensation deal with Turkey says he will give all the money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.
Mehmet Tunc told reporters Wednesday at a news conference he would not touch “one Turkish lira” of it. He said nine friends of his had been “martyred” on the Mavi Marmara in action he insisted was “against international law.”
Tunc’s lawyer told reporters at the news conference Wednesday that the telephone apology by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his country was a “huge development,” a first in history. He added his client was informed about compensation by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Tunc along with other families and their lawyers were briefed about compensation talks with Israel at a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
According to a report published by the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, the families have yet to decide whether or not they will even accept the compensation to be offered by Israel.
“Any words about compensation would sadden then,” Arinc was quoted as saying. “The core of the issue is the apology and lifting of the embargo (on Gaza). The government’s work on compensation would be right for them as well,” he said, according to sources quoted by the newspaper.
The compensation to be paid by Israel apparently comes with its own price tag, however. Israel has demanded that Turkey withdraw the charges against the four high-level ex-military chiefs currently on trial in absentia in an Istanbul court in connection with the incident.
But it’s a gamble: Arinc has said the government is requiring that all of the families of those killed on the ship accept the compensation offered by Israel, or the deal falls through – in more ways than one.
“Two things cannot happen at the same time,” Arinc said in a televised interview, according to the Hurriyet. “They (the families) will either accept the compensation or they will wait for the conclusion of the lawsuits.”
The nine "martyrs" referred to by Tunc were armed men who were killed when they attacked IDF soldiers as they boarded the vessel to take control after its captain ignored orders to change course away from Gaza and head to Ashdod port. A number of others were wounded, some seriously, including the Israeli soldiers who were attacked -- some of whom were taken hostage and held down in the hold. The vessel was one of six intent on illegally breaking Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza, a security measure used to prevent smuggling of weapons to terrorists who routinely launch deadly attacks on southern Israel. Unlike other vessels in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara carried little or no humanitarian aid.
In the wake of the clashes, Turkey severed military and high-level diplomatic ties with the Jewish State, ejecting Israel's ambassador and recalling its own from Tel Aviv. Relations between the two former allies have been frozen since that time. El Al Airlines no longer flies to Turkey, and a travel alert to the country has long since been in place for the average Israeli traveler due to the level of hostility against Jerusalem whipped up by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's vituperative rhetoric.
Repeated efforts by Israel to heal the break in ties were rebuffed by Ankara, as Erdogan demanded three conditions for renewal of relations: a formal apology for the deaths, compensation to the families of those killed, and lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza -- the latter demand constituting a direct interference in Israel's national security affairs and sovereign domestic policy.
On March 23, Netanyahu apologized by phone to Erdogan after a introduction of several minutes by U.S. President Barack Obama, who was in Israel at the time. Erdogan's response to Netanyahu was lukewarm at best, commenting that the apology was "a start" and saying that future ties would "depend on Israel."
Negotiations over compensation are set to follow, with teams on both sides having already begun the process. But although Israel has eased restrictions, government sources have firmly reiterated that Jerusalem has no intention of lifting the blockade on Gaza, which prevents Iran from exporting to Israel's enemies what could become an existential threat to the Jewish State.
Regardless, relations between business people have continued unabated, and Turkish products can be found without difficulty in the Israeli marketplace.