Tzahi Hanegbi
Tzahi HanegbiMiriam Alster/Flash 90

Cabinet Minister Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) said today that Israel's payment of millions of dollars to the families of the Turks who were killed on the Mavi Marmara is justified.

"If Israelis were killed," Hanegbi told Army Radio this morning, "Turkey would have had to compensate them. Since it was Turks who were killed, the compensation is given to the families who lost their loved ones. This is a basic element of the culture of dialogue that ultimately leads to mutual agreement. When people are killed, it is a matter of pain. The families are not to blame."

The Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara was part of a multi-ship flotilla designed to prevent Israel from checking ships headed for Gaza. On May 31, 2010, the Israel Navy ordered the ships to the Ashdod port for inspection. When the Marmara resisted, Israeli commandos boarded it. Several dozen terrorists, who until then had presented themselves as peaceful and humanitarian activists, began attacking the Israelis with stun grenades, iron bars and knives. In the ensuing battle, nine Turks were killed and ten Israeli commandos were wounded.

Though the Turks claimed to be bringing only medical and construction supplies, the Israelis found on board the ship clubs, knives, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks, flares, and night vision goggles.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to officially announce this afternoon the details of the conciliation agreement reached with Turkey in recent days. The agreement reportedly includes full normalization between the two countries, as well as the payment by Israel of $21 million to the families of the killed Turks.

A senior Israeli diplomatic source said yesterday that the payment will be made only after the Turkish parliament passes a law withdrawing all Turkish demands against the IDF soldiers who took part in the Marmara battle.

Turkish demands for the removal of Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza have been withdrawn. However, Turkey will be able to transport equipment to Gaza via the port in Ashdod.

For its part, Israel dropped its demand for the expulsion of Hamas leaders from Turkey, but Ankara has reportedly agreed to ensure that the Hamas representation in Turkey will not engage in terrorism-related activities against Israel.