Negotiating teams for Turkey and Israel are set to begin discussions on Monday in Ankara over compensation to families of the nine terror activists who died in clashes during the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
Leading negotiations on behalf of Israel will be Yaakov Amidror, national security adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and special envoy Joseph Ciechanover.
But demands by the families of those who died in the incident may complicate the prospects for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two former allies.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, seen by much of the country as a moderate, appears to be attempting to limit the amount of damage extremists can inflict on the process.
The pro-Hamas activists involved in the flotilla have said they will not withdraw a lawsuit against four former top Israeli military chiefs over the 2010 incident.
Arinc has bluntly told them, however, “If Israel pays the compensation... then the lawsuits should be withdrawn.” Moreover, he told the families to whom compensation is to be paid, “You either accept the compensation, or if you don’t, you wait for the court decision.”
In this matter, Arinc made it clear, there will not be a way to have one’s cake and eat it too.
“The families place priority on the lifting of both the embargo and the blockade on Gaza,” and want to personally verify that step,” attorney Ramazan Ariturk told the AFP news agency. Ariturk represents 430 of the 450 family members of the dead flotilla terror activists in Turkey.
“Compensation would be the last thing we would ask for,” said Ismail Bilgen, a son of one of the attackers who died aboard the vessel. He called for the removal of the “brutal Israeli blockade on Gaza,” saying “We want this case to set a precedent, so that Israel will never dare to take such action in the future.”
The nine dead were among a group of armed men who attacked IDF soldiers boarding the vessel to direct it to Ashdod port. The Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara was one of six in a flotilla illegally attempting to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.
Turkey ejected Israel’s ambassador over the incident and recalled its own from the Jewish State, breaking long-standing military and diplomatic ties but stopping short of severing economic relations.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s personal intervention during a visit to the region in March resulted in an apology by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the incident – the much-publicized main condition set by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for restoration of ties.
But two other conditions remain – compensation to the families of those who died in the clashes – and a third, far more complex issue, a demand by Erdogan to dismantle the blockade that is used to prevent terrorists from smuggling arms into Gaza that are later used to attack southern Israel.