U.S. civil suit brought against Israeli ex-PM Ehud Barak


Relatives of a 19-year-old U.S. citizen killed in Israel's 2010 storming of a Turkish-led aid flotilla are suing former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for the raid, in which nine activists died.

Furkan Dogan, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen, was filming on the flotilla carrying some 700 activists attempting to land humanitarian aid in circumvention of Israel's blockade of Gaza when Israeli Defence Force commandos forcefully intervened.

Dogan was shot five times, including point blank in the head, according to his lawyers. At the time, Israel said the flotilla's crew had been warned repeatedly before the raid.

The civil case is being brought in California by some of the same human rights lawyers who have been attempting, so far unsuccessfully, to force the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) to mount a criminal investigation into the incident.

Dan Stormer, a California attorney, said Barak, who was defense minister at the time of the raid on the flotilla, was served with suit papers on Tuesday evening after giving a speech in Thousand Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles.

“The papers were given to one of his bodyguards who later handed it to Barak in front of witnesses,” Stormer said, adding that he believed damages awarded could run into the “tens of millions of dollars”.

The case is being brought in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Claims, Torture Prevention and Anti-Terrorist acts. Since it is a civil suit, there is no possibility of Barak facing arrest.

The lawsuit represents the latest attempt to bring the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among the world's longest-running and most contentious, into the courtroom.

“We have been pursuing every possible legal avenue to obtain justice for the victims of the flotilla,” said Rodney Dixon, who has been arguing for the case to come before the ICC.

Earlier this year, the ICC launched a preliminary probe into possible crimes committed by both sides during Israel's 2014 bombing of Gaza.

In August, a settlement was reached between a Jordanian bank and victims of suicide bombs sanctioned by Palestinian militant group Hamas, ending a long-running lawsuit in the state of New York.

Ergogan disregards Kerry request to postpone Gaza visit


Turkey's prime minister will go ahead with a planned visit next month to Gaza, despite a request from US Secretary of State John Kerry to postpone.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly refused Kerry's request Sunday to postpone the visit, during a meeting between the two leaders in Istanbul. Erdogan had previously postponed his visit from this month until next, to take place after a scheduled meeting in Washington in mid-May.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also asked Erdogan to delay the visit during a meeting between the two men in Istanbul, saying it could harm relations between the West Bank and Gaza.

Erdogan reportedly plans to visit Gaza on or around May 31, the three-year anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli naval commandoes raided the ship attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

Israeli negotiators on Monday met in Ankara with Turkish officials to discuss paying compensation to the families of the victims of the 2010 raid.

The negotiations are part of the process of restoring diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey which were severed following the raid and which began the process of being repaired following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology last month to Erdogan.

Turkey, Israel reconciliation far from fact


Just before President Barack Obama boarded Air Force One to leave Israel on a windy Friday afternoon last month, he made a dramatic announcement. Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama announced that Israel had apologized to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens aboard a flotilla trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and that the two countries would resume ties soon.

But since then, nothing has happened. An Israeli delegation was supposed to visit Ankara this week to discuss the issue of compensation, an issue Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has drawn as a deal-breaker for rapprochement. Israeli press reports said that Israel was offering $100,000 for each of those killed, while Turkey was demanding $1 million. Turkey’s Vice President said the amount has yet to be determined.

“The Israeli delegation was due to leave on Thursday for talks but we received a message from the Turks they want to delay that to the 22nd and of course we complied,” a senior Israeli official involved in the issue told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “We will be discussing all the issues raised in the phone conversation (between Prime Ministers Erdogan and Netanyahu), normalization of relations, and the exchange of ambassadors. We are talking about a process of improving relations with Turkey.”

In Turkey, analysts said the Israeli apology came as a welcome surprise.

“It is being seen as a victory here,” Barcin Yinanc, columnist and op-ed editor of Hurriyet Daily News told The Media Line. “The government took a principled stand and got even more than they had asked for.”

But she said that major differences between Israel and Turkey remain over the Palestinian issue.

“The Turks believe that Israel’s policy is poisonous to the Middle East and is not sustainable,” she said.

From Israel’s side, some said that Netanyahu, under pressure from Obama, had caved-in by apologizing. They said the Israeli soldiers only used force once they were attacked, and that the apology and compensation is a bad precedent for the future.

But others, like former Israeli ambassador Gabby Levy, said Israel should have apologized long ago. He also said repairing ties will not happen immediately.

“It should have been done long before. But at the same time the Israeli government should approach it carefully and shouldn’t raise too high expectation for a speedy process of reconciliation,” Levy told The Media Line. “It is going to take some time. We will never be able to get back to the level of warm relations we had previously.”

Levy said that Turkey had previously served as an intermediary for negotiations between Israel and Syria, but he did not think a similar role would be possible in the near future.

Until the flotilla incident, Israel and Turkey had agreements for military cooperation worth billions of dollars. Israeli defense companies, for example, modernized Turkish Air Force F-4 Phantoms and F-5 jets in a deal worth $900 million.

Turkey was also a popular tourist destination for Israelis, who do not need visas to enter. In 2008, some 560,000 Israelis visited Turkey, according to Israeli tourism officials. Those numbers declined sharply after the flotilla incident, and Israeli tourists turned to Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Israeli tourism professionals doubt that waves of Israelis will return to Turkey, at least in the near future.

“The resorts in Turkey are beautiful and the people on the Turkish coast of Antalya are friendly,” Mark Feldman, the owner of Ziontours in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “But Israelis are still hesitant, and the prices have gone up significantly. A few years ago we could offer packages for $99 – now summer packages are going for $599, the same as to Greece.”

Yet, Turkey and Israel still share interests in preventing the spread of radical Islam in the Middle East. Both are threatened by the growing fragmentation of Syria and the chance that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon-based Hizbullah, Iran’s terrorist proxy. And both fear the growing power of Iran and the chance that Iran could become a nuclear power.

It is not clear how long the negotiations over compensation will take. If an agreement is reached, Israel will pay the money into a Turkish-government fund which will then disburse it to the victims’ families. The next step will be appointing ambassadors and re-staffing the embassies in both countries. That could take months, but it will take even longer before confidence will be restored.

Injured Turks will sue Israeli soldiers despite Bibi’s apology


Turkish nationals injured in Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara said they will sue Israeli soldiers and their commanders despite Israel's apology.

“We will continue with the criminal lawsuits we have opened against the Israeli soldiers and commanders, and we won't accept dropping this suit if compensation is paid,” Musa Cogas, who was injured on the Mavi Marmara, told Reuters on Monday.

Turkey and Israel agreed to normalize ties after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month apologized for Israel's 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship as it attempted to evade a maritime blockade of Gaza and agreed to compensate the families of nine Turks killed in the ensuing violence when Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship.

As part of Israel's agreement on compensation, it wants lawsuits against Israeli soldiers dropped, according to Reuters.

A court case against former Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and other high-ranking Israeli military officials opened in November in Istanbul. The charges reportedly include manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, causing bodily harm, deprivation of freedom, plundering, damage to property and illegal confiscation of property.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Netanyahu also agreed to ease the restriction of goods flowing into Gaza. Erdogan added that the normalization of relations with Israel would take time and would not take place until Israel fulfills the agreement. Erdogan is scheduled to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip this month.

Turkey withdrew its high-level diplomats from Israel and froze deals with Israel's military in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident.

Israel's government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal. The United Nations' Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey's inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to be illegal.

Israel-Turkey rapprochement Accepting an apology graciously


“Turkey was the first to recognize Israel from the Muslim world. Since the 15th Century, Turkey was a shelter for the Jewish people. I can think of about 1,000 reasons why Turkey and Israel should be friends. There is an affinity in history; there is a closeness in geography.” These were the very first words of Israeli President Shimon Peres after Israel's apology to Turkey in an interview with a Turkish daily. I could not agree more with him.

First of all, I would like to start by saying that we — the people of Turkey — deeply cherish Israel's historic friendship with Turkey and deciding on an apology and compensation. These are surely momentous times in diplomacy, a turning point, but what is far more important is the meaning and message for our two people. An apology is a message from our Israeli friends saying that the friendship between Turkey and Israel is important to them and they wish to continue this friendship.

In the past, when my Israeli friends asked me whether I thought an apology was necessary, I always told them that I cannot decide such matters on behalf of the people of Israel, and that it was entirely up to them and their leaders to decide how to approach such issues. I, for one, do not place preconditions on an apology as it should be sincere, and cannot be done under compulsion.

Consequently, Israel chose to overlook the mistakes of Turkey regarding the Mavi Marmara incident, and apologized for her operational mistakes and promised to pay compensation to the families of those who died because she wants to put this incident behind her and continue with our long-established frienship.

Apology is an honorable, graceful act, and in my opinion it will increase people's respect for Israel. Apology is a courtesy, a great beauty, and thus it can never be degrading, humiliating or aggrieving. Israel did the right thing, and we deeply appreciate it.

However we should expect that some circles will attempt to make news just for provocation and attempt to ruin or interrupt this process of healing diplomatic ties. Nevertheless, we hear the voices of negative people who want to put Israel in a difficult position. So I would like to turn to my fellow Turks and criticize these voices that speak about this as though we made them cave in and apologize. It is absolutely wrong to attempt any kind of humiliation out of this and use this virtuous act as a tool for propaganda to incite anger. Israel is doing this for friendship. It is outrageous to use inflammatory language or condescend to using it as something against Israel. It is simply a humiliation upon those hateful voices for not knowing how to graciously appreciate this apology.

I also do not approve the billboards that the Ankara municipality has put up to thank Prime Minister Erdogan for allegedly compelling Israel to apologize. I do not think that either putting up such ads nor their gloating tone is right. This is not the way to accept an apology.

If one has apologized, then you must accept it right away. If someone apologizes, they are not to be dishonored. Someone who apologizes should be treated kindly, and gracious behavior should be shown. The kind of behavior that shows you accept him as a friend, and also shows your maturity, quality and worth. There is no place for such gloating in our tradition. That is why I find it deeply unbecoming to stooping to use this gracious act as something disadvantegous for Israel.

If this kind of humiliating rhetoric is used, then no friendship would be left. If one uses such inflammatory language, then it would mean consigning the friendship of Israel to the back burner and that would be a terrible mistake. Frankly I see this as an act to eliminate friendship so I condemn those who try to take this apology and twist it in such a way to dishonor Israel.

As to the issue of the Gaza blockade, it is unfortunate that this matter is still the source of a rift between Turkey and Israel, nor should it have been made a condition of Turkish-Israeli relations. Of course I look forward to the day when the blockade is lifted; I don't wish to see the Palestinians confined to their territories. But the Israelis have legitimate security concerns of rockets falling upon them being fired from Gaza, and they are deeply concerned about weapons being smuggled into Gaza via the Mediterranean. Consequently, we — as Turkey — must express that Israel's security is important to us as well, while also expressing our concern for the well-being of the citizens of Gaza. Justice is, after all, not one-sided.

We must not forget that Israel is a unique country dealing with existential threats on a daily basis. Throughout their history as a people, they have been beaten, driven out, chased, burned, hung and slaughtered. They have faced seemingly endless persecution, from the Roman Empire to the Spanish Inquistion, from the pogroms of the Tsars to the ravine at Babi Yar, from the mindless slaughter of the Crusaders to the mechanized factories of death which shall be forever remembered with horror; Auschwitz, Sobibor, Chelmno and others. The Israeli people have no wish to live worrying that fanatics, motivated by an irrational prejudice and hatred will kill and maim and bomb them and their children. Let us provide assurance so they can relax, and lift this nonsensical prejudice against them. We, as Muslims, must be able to guarantee the people of Israel that there will be no more of this madness.

So let me express this on behalf of Turkey: Of course we want security for Israel, and we want you to live in peace and prosperity. You must live in peace in your historic motherland which has been your home for thousands of years; we are not at all uneasy at your presence there. May God bestow peace and prosperity upon you till the End of Days. You are the children of prophets. There is plenty of land everywhere. It is one of our basic convictions to establish a unity in the whole region that will include Russia, Armenia and Israel, to live in peace and brotherhood, to ensure the independence of states within themselves and survival of their own governments, to advocate a fully-formed, mature democracy and the implementation of secularism with meticulous care. God willing, Israel will see their finest and their best days under this unity, side by side with Muslims, as brothers and sisters.


The author is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at a Turkish TV. She is also the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization. She can be reached on http://www.facebook.com/sinemtezyapar and https://twitter.com/SinemTezyapar.

After Mideast trip, Obama gains political capital. Will he spend it?


For a trip that U.S. officials had cautioned was not about getting “deliverables,” President Obama’s apparent success during his Middle East trip at getting Israel and Turkey to reconcile has raised some hopes for a breakthrough on another front: Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The question now is whether Obama has the means or the will to push the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who stayed behind to follow up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s team on what happens next, made clear in his statement on Israel's apology to Turkey to place it in the broader context of the region’s tensions.

“As I discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening, this will help Israel meet the many challenges it faces in the region,” Kerry said in a statement issued Saturday evening.

Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, delivered Friday on the Ben Gurion Airport tarmac while crew members readied Air Force One for departure, took the political world by surprise.

After years of resisting, Netanyahu delivered the apology sought by Turkey since 2010 for the Israel commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine people aboard a Turkish vessel.

There may have been a hint of what was to come in a remark delivered to reporters by Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, in a March 14 conference call before the trip.

“Israel as it makes peace is going to have recognize the broader role of public opinion in peacemaking,” Rhodes said, referring to the need to reach out to populations, not just leaders, in the region.

It was a theme Obama seized upon in his March 21 speech at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

“Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation,” Obama said. Later in the speech, he added, “As more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over.  Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.”

The next afternoon, asked during a news conference with Jordanian King Abdullah how he brokered the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, Obama made it clear it was about advancing shared interests in the region.

“I have long said that it is in both the interest of Israel and Turkey to restore normal relations between two countries that have historically had good ties,” Obama said. “It broke down several years ago as a consequence of the flotilla incident.

“For the last two years, I’ve spoken to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Erdogan about why this rupture has to be mended, that they don’t have to agree on everything in order for them to come together around a whole range of common interests and common concerns.”

If there was much resistance in Israel to such an apology, it seemed to have dissipated in the wake of Obama’s charm offensive, which won over not only Israelis but even some American Jewish conservatives who have been among Obama’s fiercest critics.

“In terms of his attitude toward Israel, in the past three days Obama has altered his status in that regard from being the second coming of Jimmy Carter to that of another Bill Clinton,” wrote Jonathan Tobin, the senior online editor at Commentary magazine.

Emphasizing the Jewish connection to the land with visits to the grave of the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and a viewing of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Obama’s good will appears to have superseded any Israeli resentment for being pressured into the apology to Turkey. A snap poll by Channel 2 in the aftermath of Obama’s visit found that 39 percent of Israelis had changed their opinion of Obama for the better, the Times of Israel reported.

Whether Obama, like Clinton, will be able to leverage such good will into pressure on Netanyahu’s government — and whether he wants to — remains to be seen. Obama has made clear that he wants Netanyahu to give him time on Iran, telling Channel 2 in a pre-trip interview that he sees the dangers of a nuclear Iran arising in about a year’s time, not in several months, as Israeli officials reportedly believe.

Obama also made clear that he wants to see progress in the Palestinian-Israeli talks, but he did so in a passive way, not by offering solutions but by urging Israelis to pressure their government.

“I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks,” Obama said in his March 21 speech. “You must create the change that you want to see.”

That’s not a clear plan, Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in a post-trip analysis.

“Whether the shift on how peace talks should begin translates into a shift on how those talks should then proceed remains unclear,” he wrote.

Nonetheless, should Obama proceed, Satloff suggested, he now has the political capital to do so.

“If the basic idea behind visiting Israel was to open the administration's second term on surer footing in terms of U.S.-Israeli relations than what characterized the opening months of the president's first term,” Satloff wrote, “he appears to have succeeded.”

Israel seizes pro-Palestinian activist ship, Estelle off Gaza


The Israeli navy seized an international pro-Palestinian activist ship on the Mediterranean high seas on Saturday to prevent it breaching Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, a military spokeswoman said.

She said no one was hurt when marines boarded the SV Estelle, a three-mast schooner, and that it was rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod after it ignored orders to turn away from the Hamas-governed Palestinian enclave.

The Estelle was carrying 30 activists from Europe, Canada and Israel, humanitarian cargo such as cement and goodwill items such as children's books, a mission spokesman said on Saturday.

Shipboard activists could not immediately be reached for comment on the interception, which was carried out in international waters as they were on their final Gaza approach.

Greece, five of whose citizens were among the activists, said in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry in Athens that all of the Estelle's passengers were in good health.

Citing a need to stem arms smuggling to Hamas and other Palestinian militants, Israel maintains a tight naval blockade of Gaza. Israel and neighbouring Egypt also limit overland traffic to and from the territory.

Palestinians describe the curbs as collective punishment for Gaza's 1.6 million residents, and their supporters abroad have mounted several attempts to break the blockade by sea. Most were stopped by Israel, and detained foreign activists repatriated.

In a May 2010 interception, Israeli marines killed nine Turkish activists in clashes aboard their Gaza-bound ship.

An inquiry into that incident commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found the Gaza blockade legal but faulted the Israeli navy for excessive force.

Israel goes to U.N. in effort to halt Gaza-bound ship


Israel asked the United Nations to stop a Swedish-owned ship carrying human rights activists from attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called the ship Estelle a “provocation” that “raises tensions and could easily spark a serious escalation of the conflict.”

“I want to stress that Israel is not interested in confrontation but remains determined to enforce its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — and will take all lawful actions to this end,” Prosor wrote in a letter delivered Tuesday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, the Estelle reportedly is carrying humanitarian aid such as cement, basketballs and musical instruments. The small vessel began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving earlier this month in the Gulf of Naples. It is due to arrive in Gaza's territorial waters early next week.

The boat, flying the Finnish flag, also is carrying at least 17 activists from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States. Members of parliament of four European countries reportedly boarded the vessel at sea near Greece on Tuesday, according to the Swedish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which said there are now some 30 activists.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after the terrorist group Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. It says the sanctions are to prevent weapons and other terror material from being smuggled in to Gaza,

The Freedom Flotilla's first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel's naval blockade.

Mavi Marmara victims’ families sue Israel


Relatives of nine Turkish citizens killed in the raid aboard the Mavi Marmara ship filed a lawsuit against Israel, according to Turkish reports.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday in a Turkish court by more than 30 relatives of Turkish citizens killed in the May 31, 2010 raid, as well as 30 others injured in the attack, according to the Hurriyet Daily News and the Anatolia news agency. They are calling for about $5 million in compensatory damages.

The trial against four Israeli commanders in the raid, including former Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, is scheduled to begin in a Turkish court in early November.

Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel's naval blockade of the coastal strip.

Israel's government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations' Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey's inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to be illegal. Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and to lift the Gaza blockade. The two countries have severed diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

‘No reason’ to apologize for Mavi Marmara incident, Lieberman tells Turkish journalists


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Turkish journalists that Israel has “no reason to apologize” for the Mavi Marmara incident.

Lieberman in a meeting Sunday with the journalists in Jerusalem said that Israel is ready to discuss the incident and would consider the issue of an apology as part of a package including other issues, such as Iran, Gaza and Hamas, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported. He said current developments in the region made it important for Turkey and Israel to normalize relations.

Lieberman called the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, a “clear provocation, and it was our right to protect the lives of our soldiers. Frankly speaking, Israel has no reason to apologize,” he said.

Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed in clashes during the May 31, 2010 raid by Israeli commandos.

It was Lieberman’s first meeting with a Turkish delegation since the incident.

Israel mishandled Gaza flotilla incident, comptroller report finds


Israel’s State Comptroller issued a report highly critical of the government’s handling of the Mavi Marmara Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza in 2010.

The report, issued Wednesday on the eve of Micha Lindenstrauss’ leaving his position, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision-making process was flawed and that the strategy did not follow the recommended protocol.

In addition, the report said, key agencies were kept in the dark about what was happening and the possibility of extreme or fatal violence was ignored. There also was no proper documentation of discussions surrounding actions taken against the flotilla nor the decisions that were made.

“Israel’s democratic process includes institutional mechanisms for independent oversight and we thank the State Comptroller for his work,” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said in a statement.

“We reiterate that the panel established by the UN Secretary General to investigate the flotilla incident clearly ruled that the maritime blockade to prevent weapons reaching the terrorists in Gaza is legitimate self defense and that Israel’s decision to intercept the flotilla was indeed legal under international law. Ultimately, weapons that reach Hamas in Gaza end up being used against Israeli civilians.”

Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip. Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed in clashes during the raid.

Lindenstrauss also criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak for not looking into whether the army was prepared to deal with a violent response from the Marmara’s passengers.

The report also criticized Israel’s public response to the incident, saying it maintained silent for too long while Palestinian supporters capitalized on the tragedy in the media.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and to lift the Gaza blockade. The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

Thousands in Istanbul rally against Israel


Thousands of Turks in Istanbul rallied against Israel Thursday, marking the second anniversary of an Israel Defense Forces raid on the Mavi Marmara ship that was part of a flotilla that claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Israel had determined that the flotilla was violating its blockade of the coastal area, and found weapons aboard.

The Humanitarian Aid Foundation, known as IHH and one of the main groups behind the flotilla, organized Thursday’s rally. Israel, the United States and other nations consider the IHH to be a terrorist group.

Protesters in Turkey called for those responsible for the raid to be held accountable, AFP reported.

Earlier this week, a Turkish criminal court accepted indictments against the four top Israeli commanders who led the 2010 raid.

Turkey and Israel have not had diplomatic relations since the raid.

Turkish criminal court accepts indictments against Israeli commanders


A Turkish criminal court accepted indictments against the four top Israeli commanders who led the 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

İstanbul’s 7th High Criminal Court on Monday unanimously accepted the indictment submitted last week by a special Turkish prosecutor, according to the English-language Turkish news service Today’s Zaman.

The 144-page indictment seeks 10 aggravated life jail sentences against former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi; Navy commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom; military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin; and the head of Air Force intelligence, Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.

The soldiers who carried out the raid are expected to be named in a separate indictment, following an ongoing investigation, according to Zaman.

The indictment mentions 10 “slain Turks.” Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed in clashes during the raid. The 10th person is a man who remains in a vegetative state, according to Zaman. The indictment also reportedly refers to 490 victims and complainants, including 189 who were reported injured in the attacks.

Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and to lift the Gaza blockade. The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

Turkey prepares indictments against 4 Israeli commanders over flotilla incident


A special prosecutor in Istanbul has prepared indictments against the four top Israeli commanders who led the 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

The 144-page indictment seeks 10 aggravated life jail sentences for each commander, including former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, according to the English-language daily Turkish news service Today’s Zaman, citing the Sabah daily.

The other Israeli commanders to be indicted reportedly are Israeli Navy commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom; Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin; and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.

The indictment mentions 10 “slain Turks.” Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed during the raid, A tenth man remains in a vegetative state, according to Zaman. The indictment also reportedly refers to 490 victims and complainants, including 189 people who were reported injured in the attacks.

Sabah said the indictment had been submitted to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı, who is expected to approve the request to submit it to the appropriate court.

Israeli naval commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning it not to sail into waters near Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. .

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. 

Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and for the lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza. The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

Turkey ready to issue indictments in Marmara incident


Turkish government prosecutors have completed their investigation into the incident aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in 2010.

The prosecutors have requested from Israel’s Foreign Ministry the names of the Israeli soldiers to be listed on the indictment, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said Tuesday according to the English-language Today’s Zaman, citing the Anatolia news agency.

Israeli naval commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara,which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning it not to sail into waters near Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals, including one Turkish-American man, were killed in the clashes.

The Israeli government-appointed Turkel commission investigated the incident, despite calls from the United Nations to hold an independent investigation. The commission found that the government and the military behaved appropriately and that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal.

The UN-appointed Palmer committee also found the Gaza blockade to be illegal but said that Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. .

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal.

Turkey says Israel not welcome at NATO summit


Turkey blocked the participation of Israel in next month’s NATO Summit in Chicago, a Turkish newspaper reported.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vetoed Israel’s participation during a NATO foreign ministers meeting last week in Brussels, the Hurriyet Daily News reported Monday.

“There will be no Israeli presence at the NATO meeting unless they issue a formal apology and pay compensation for the Turkish citizens their commandos killed in international waters,” a senior Turkish official told Hurriyet, referring to the deaths of nine Turkish activists during an Israeli naval commando raid on the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara as it attempted to break Israeli’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. 

“Those countries who wish to see normalization in ties between Turkey and Israel should advise Israel to apologize and to compensate the killing of Turks in international waters,” the official told the news service.

Israel, as well as other countries including Egypt, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco, is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program.

Turkey has previously vetoed Israeli attempts to participate more fully in NATO. It vetoed an Israeli request to open an office at NATO headquarters and its participation in some Mediterranean Dialogue group activities, according to Hurriyet.

“You are talking about being partners and partnership values. But partners, first of everything, should act like partners, so that we’ll treat them accordingly,” Davutoglu said during last week’s NATO meeting, according to Hurriyet

Australian lawmaker’s call against Israel criticized


The head of Australian Jewry scolded a left-wing parliamentarian who demanded that an Australian member of a Gaza-bound flotilla be immediately released.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr. Danny Lamm chastized Greens Sen. Lee Rhiannon Monday after she called on the Israeli government to release Sydney resident Michael Coleman, one of 27 pro-Palestinian activists arrested Nov. 4 by the Israeli Navy as they trief to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

“It is the Israeli Defense Forces that have acted illegally as the boat Mr. Coleman and other Freedom Waves participants were on was in international waters when intercepted,” said Rhiannon, a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

But Lamm retorted: “Senator Rhiannon’s characterization of the blockade of Gaza and the boarding of vessels that are used to break the blockade as ‘illegal’ is mendacious nonsense.

“The people who want to break the blockade are not interested in providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians,” Lamm added. “If that was their fundamental aim, they could send their supplies in by land via Israel.  Their main purpose is to harm Israel and her people.”

Israeli navy intercepts Gaza-bound boats


The Israeli navy Friday boarded two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists toward the Gaza Strip in a fresh challenge to Israel’s blockade of the Islamist-controlled territory.

The military said in a statement that the Canadian “Tahrir” and Irish “Saoirse” vessels, which had 27 people on board, would be taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The Israel Navy soldiers operated as planned, and took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the activists onboard the vessels as well as themselves,” the statement said. A military source said nobody was injured in the operation.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish Mavi Marmara aid vessel to enforce the naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave, and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists, some of them armed with clubs and knives.

Israel spurned Ankara’s demand for an apology over the incident. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador two months ago.

Carrying a small amount of medical supplies, the “Tahrir and “Saoirse” had sailed from Turkey Wednesday. The Israeli military said the boats were in international waters when they were stopped, between 40 and 60 miles from the coast.

The activists on board came from Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States, and included Palestinians and at least one Arab citizen of Israel, organizers said.

The two boats had continued sailing toward Gaza, ignoring instructions to turn around or unload their supplies in Israel or neighboring Egypt, Israeli military officials said.

Citing the need to prevent weapons smuggling, Israel has blockaded Gaza since the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

A U.N. report on Israel’s interception of the 2010 Turkish ship said the blockade was a “legitimate security measure,” adding that “its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.” Turkey has rejected that ruling.

Pro-Palestinian groups behind the latest attempt to reach Gaza by sea condemn the blockade as illegal and inhumane.

Paul Murphy, a socialist member of the European Parliament on board one of the ships, wrote in a blog posted earlier on the Internet that the mission was in “response to the call from people within Gaza to try to break the siege they suffer under.”

Israeli authorities said that once the two boats had reached Ashdod, they would undergo security checks. Those on board would be questioned, then taken to prison service holding facilities where they will wait until booked on flights back home.

They have the right to a court hearing before being deported.

Israel allows humanitarian aid, food and some other supplies into Gaza for its 1.7 million people, many of them impoverished refugees, via land crossings it closely monitors. Gaza also has a border with Egypt over which goods are imported.

Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the attempt to break the blockade in a sermon at a mosque on Friday: “We appreciate highly those activists who came in solidarity and we stress that their goal is being achieved whether or not they arrived by exposing (Israeli) occupation (measures).”

Turkey had threatened to give naval protection to future aid flotillas following the 2010 violence, but Ankara has kept largely quiet about this latest operation.

Some of the activists, who dubbed their mission “Freedom Waves,” had participated in a thwarted seaborne attempt in June to reach Gaza, which was blocked from setting sail from Greece.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alistair Lyon

Seven Jewish lawmakers press Obama on Turkey


Seven Jewish House members urged President Obama to conduct an intensive review of the country’s relationship with Turkey.

“It appears that our long-standing ally in Ankara is drifting toward confrontation with our closest friends and allies,” said the letter sent Wednesday by the lawmakers, all Democrats.

The signers are U.S. Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee; Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), members of the Foreign Relations Committee; Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

“In response, the United States needs to undertake an urgent review of our relations with Turkey and our overall strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the letter said.

The letter referred to Turkey’s expulsion of the Israeli ambassador after a United Nations investigation partially vindicated Israel in its May 2010 raid on a Turkish-flagged aid ship headed to the Gaza Strip—the raid resulted in a melee that killed nine Turks—as well as what it said were aggressive Turkish postures toward Cyprus and the European Union.

Separately, Engel and Berkley called for a suspension of sales of military equipment to Turkey.

“We urge our Congressional colleagues to join us in rejecting any attempt to supply weapons to a country that is threatening some of America’s closest allies and supporting terrorist groups like Hamas,” they said in a statement.

The Turkish charity that organized the May 2010 flotilla is believed to have ties with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Israel ready to stop boats heading for Gaza


The Israeli navy will prevent two yachts carrying pro-Palestinian activists which left Turkey on Wednesday from breaching an Israeli blockade and reaching the Gaza Strip, an Israeli military official said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, speaking to reporters by telephone, would not say how the boats might be stopped, saying only “we will have to assess and see if we are facing violent passengers.”

Israel was aware two yachts had set sail carrying Irish, Canadian and U.S. activists, Leibovich said. Describing their journey as a “provocation,” she said they were still far from the Israeli and Gazan coast.

Israel would offer to unload any aid supplies on board and deliver them to Gaza, Leibovich said. Israel blockades the Gaza coast to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian gunmen in the territory, she added.

The military spokesman’s office said the navy was “prepared to contact” the vessels and had “completed the necessary preparations in order to prevent them from reaching the Gaza Strip.”

Israel has blockaded Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, after routing Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel permits humanitarian aid and supplies to reach the territory through a land crossing, and Gaza also shares a border with Egypt.

An Israeli government official told Reuters earlier that Israel “will take whatever measures will be necessary” to maintain its blockade.

Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals on one ship in a Gaza-bound flotilla last year when the activists fought them with clubs and knives as the commandos tried to seize control of the ship to enforce the blockade.

The incident badly damaged ties between Israel and Turkey, which reached a crisis point two months ago when Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israel rejected Turkey’s request for an apology for the flotilla deaths.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tim Pearce

Israel to send quake aid to Turkey [UPDATE]


Israel said on Tuesday it was launching an airlift of supplies to help Turkey cope with a devastating earthquake, following a request from Ankara, with a first shipment of prefabricated homes destined for shipment on Wednesday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Ankara had sought the aid via the Israeli embassy there, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered assistance in a telephone call to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after the quake struck on Sunday.

The humanitarian step taken as more than 400 were reported dead in the disaster that struck southeastern Turkey, was seen as possibly easing diplomatic strains between the allies over the incident involving the Gaza-bound flotilla last year.

A spokesman for Israei Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that “tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon a first aircraft will fly from Israel to Turkey with several prefabricated homes,” suggesting the shipment would be followed by others.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said Turkey had “relayed a request to the embassy in Ankara for mobile homes” and that Israel was checking into the logistics of shipping these supplies.

“We are checking what we can do, and will do whatever we can,” Palmor said.

In Ankara, a Foreign Ministry official said Turkey had requested prefabricated housing and tents from more than 30 countries.

“We informed all countries who offered help, including Israel, of a request on specific items for post-emergency material, such as prefabricated houses, containers and tents,” the official said.

Israel, geographically close to Turkey, with each country situated on opposite sides of Syria and Lebanon, has sent equipment and rescue teams to Turkey after past earthquakes. Turkey sent fire-fighting planes last December to help Israel battle a brush fire that killed 41 people.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc denied on Monday that Ankara had declined an offer of aid from Israel.

Tensions between the two U.S. allies increased last month when Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israel refused to apologise for the Turks killed last year.

Israel said its marines acted in self-defence in clashes with pro-Palestinian activists aboard a vessel bound last year for Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy

Turkey IDs Israeli soldiers, commanders in ship’s raid


A list of 174 Israeli soldiers and commanders involved in the May 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship as it attempted to break the Gaza blockade, was given to Turkish prosecutors.

The list includes the soldiers in the Shayetet 13 commando unit, as well as their commanders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The list was published Monday in the Turkish daily newspaper, Sabah.

It is unclear who drew up the list, which the newspaper said was culled from numerous sources, including Facebook, Sabah reported that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization drew up the list at the request of the state prosecutors office. But the Turkish news service Zaman reported that the state prosecutor denied asking for the list from national intelligence, saying that it received the names from the Humanitarian Aid Foundation, known as the IHH, which sponsored the ship and has been identified by Israel as a terrorist organization.

Sabah reported that the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office had requested from Israeli authorities the full names and addresses of the military and government officials involved in the raid on the flotilla, but received no answer.

Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American dual citizen, were killed on May 31, 2010 during an Israeli naval commando raid on a Turkish-flagged aid flotilla attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the deaths and compensation to the victi

U.N. experts say Israel’s blockade of Gaza illegal


Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a U.N. body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate U.N. probe into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli raid of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists said earlier this month that Israel had used unreasonable force in last year’s raid, but its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip was legal.

A panel of five independent U.N. rights experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

The four-year blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the enclave of fundamental rights, they said.

“In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognise the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel’s closure policy towards Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians,” they said in a joint statement.

An earlier fact-finding mission named by the same U.N. forum to investigate the flotilla incident also found in a report last September that the blockade violated international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions.

Israel says its Gaza blockade is a precaution against arms reaching Hamas and other Palestinian guerrillas by sea.

The four-man panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer found Israel had used unreasonable force in dealing with what it called “organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers”.

Turkey has downgraded ties with Israel over the incident.

Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five experts who issued Tuesday’s statement, said the Palmer report’s conclusions were influenced by a desire to salve Turkish-Israeli ties.

“The Palmer report was aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law,” he said in the statement.

About one-third of Gaza’s arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli military measures, said Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, another of the five.

At least two-thirds of Gazan households lack secure access to food, he said. “People are forced to make unacceptable trade-offs, often having to choose between food or medicine or water for their families.”

The other three experts were the U.N. special rapporteurs on physical and mental health; extreme poverty and human rights; and access to water and sanitation.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff

Turkish PM saw Gaza raid as “grounds for war”


Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan saw “grounds for war” with Israel last year after a deadly raid on a Turkish ship headed for Gaza, according to a transcript of a recent interview.

State news agency Anatolia released late on Sunday what it said was an original Turkish-language transcript of an interview Erdogan gave to Al Jazeera television last week. It included elements not broadcast as well as original wording for sensitive comments that had been transmitted only in Arabic translation.

Among previously unpublished elements, Erdogan said Israel’s deadly raid last year on a Turkish ship headed for Gaza would have justified going to war: “The attack that took place in international waters did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was grounds for war. However, befitting Turkey’s greatness, we decided to act with patience,” he said.

The transcript in Turkish from Anatolian, apparently provided by Erdogan’s office, also gave the following account of the prime minister’s response to a question on what Turkey would do to ensure free passage for its ships in the Mediterranean.

“Right now, without a doubt, the primary duty of Turkish navy ships is to protect its own ships,” Erdogan said.

“This is the first step. And we have humanitarian aid that we want to carry there. This humanitarian aid will not be attacked any more, as it was the case with Mavi Marmara.”

Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and halted defense-related trade after the Jewish state’s confirmation last week that it would not apologize for the raid on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 in which nine Turks were killed.

Turkey and Israel had tried to mend fences before the publication of a U.N. report two weeks ago, which deemed the blockade of the Gaza Strip a legal means to stem the flow of arms to Palestinians.

Israel has said it will continue the blockade and that it wants to ease tensions with its former ally .

The prospect of a showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow ally of the United States, rattled Israelis already on edge over political upheaval in the Arab world and Iran’s nuclear program. Washington has appealed for restraint.

Erdogan , seeking to expand Turkey’s regional influence, will travel to Cairo on Monday as part of a tour of three Arab countries likely to be scrutinised by Israel, whose once warm ties with both Muslim states have been shaken.

Reporting by Jon Burch; Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

Erdogan: Turkish warships will escort aid vessels to Gaza


Turkey said on Thursday it would escort aid ships to Gaza and would not allow a repetition of last year’s Israeli raid that killed nine Turks, setting the stage for a potential naval confrontation with its former ally.

Raising the stakes in Turkey’s row with Israel over its refusal to apologize for the killings, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Al Jazeera television that Turkey had taken steps to stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean.

“Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdogan said in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.

“From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdogan said.

Referring to Erdogan’s comments, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: “This is a statement well-worth not commenting on.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel, two close U.S. allies in the region, have soured since Israeli forces boarded the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010.

Ankara downgraded ties and vowed to boost naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in the escalating row. Israel says it acted legally against ships that tried to breach its blockade on the Palestinian enclave which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.

Israel has said it will enforce the blockade, which it says is needed to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said earlier on Thursday that Israel and Turkey will eventually mend fences rather than become foes, describing their unprecedented dispute over Gaza as “spilled milk.”

Noting that an inquiry commissioned by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had vindicated the blockade, Barak predicted that wider Middle East upheaval would help bring Israel back together with its Muslim ex-ally.

“Ultimately this wave will pass. We recognize reality. They recognize reality,” Barak told Israel Radio. “We are the two countries that are most important to the West in the region … I am certain that we can overcome these (disagreements).”

But Erdogan appeared to raise the heat, saying NATO member Turkey has taken steps to patrol the Mediterranean, and vowed to stop the Jewish state from exploiting natural resources in the area.

“You know that Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean,” Erdogan said, apparently in reference to Israeli plans to exploit offshore gas reserves found in areas that are also claimed by Lebanon.

“You will see that it will not be the owner of this right, because Turkey, as a guarantor of the Turkish republic of north Cyprus, has taken steps in the area, and it will be decisive and holding fast to the right to monitor international waters in the east Mediterranean,” he said.

Turkey says oil deals granted by the Greek Cypriot government, which represents the island in the European Union, are illegal as the borders of Cyprus remain undetermined while Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots pursue reunification talks.

Turkey’s plan to flex its naval muscles may fuel Western unease about Turkey’s reliability as a NATO partner and its penchant for actions designed to court popularity in the Muslim world.

Asked whether Israel might yet say sorry for the seizure of the Turkish vessel, Barak said: “Look, it’s spilled milk. It’s not important right now.”

In addition to an apology, NATO-member Turkey has demanded that Israel end the Gaza blockade. Israel says the closure is needed to keep arms from reaching Palestinian guerrillas by sea.

“A normalization or improvement in Turkey-Israel relationships shouldn’t be expected unless they apologize, pay a compensation and lift an embargo on Gaza,” Erdogan said on Thursday.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Aditional reporting Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Karolina Tagaris

Turkey suspends defense, trade ties with Israel


Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country has suspended defense industry ties with Israel and halted trade pending a decision on permanently suspending all trade.

“Trade ties, military ties, regarding defense industry ties, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures,” Erdogan said Tuesday, according to news agencies.

Erdogan also said that Turkish Navy ships will have a heightened presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli diplomats who have not yet left Turkey have until Wednesday to do so, the prime minister said. Israel’s ambassador to Turkey had finished his term and had planned to return to Israel. No replacement had been named.

Erdogan also said that he may visit the Gaza Strip through Egypt after a visit to Cairo later this month, according to Reuters. 

Many of the sanctions already had been announced by Turkey’s foreign minister on Sept. 2, the day that the United Nations released the Palmer report, an investigation into Israel’s May 2010 boarding of the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara in which nine Turkish nationals were killed. The report found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal but that Israeli commandos used excessive force in confronting the passengers.

Israel has refused to apologize for the raid but has expressed “regret” for the deaths.

“Trade ties, military ties, regarding defense industry ties, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures,” Erdogan said Tuesday, according to news agencies.

Erdogan also said that Turkish Navy ships will have a heightened presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli diplomats who have not yet left Turkey have until Wednesday to do so, the prime minister said. Israel’s ambassador to Turkey had finished his term and had planned to return to Israel. No replacement had been named.

Erdogan also said that he may visit the Gaza Strip through Egypt after a visit to Cairo later this month, according to Reuters. 

Many of the sanctions already had been announced by Turkey’s foreign minister on Sept. 2, the day that the United Nations released the Palmer report, an investigation into Israel’s May 2010 boarding of the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara in which nine Turkish nationals were killed. The report found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal but that Israeli commandos used excessive force in confronting the passengers.

Israel has refused to apologize for the raid but has expressed “regret” for the deaths.

Israel hopes to mend ties with Turkey, government official says


Israel will work to mend ties with Turkey, a government official said on Friday, after Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military agreements with the Jewish state, deepening a feud between the two former allies.

Turkey’s announcement came the day after a U.N. report said Israel had used unreasonable force in a lethal raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza last year, but confirmed Israel’s view that its naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave was legal.

“Israel recognizes the importance of the historical ties in the past and present between the Jewish and Turkish peoples,” an official Israeli statement said.

“The state of Israel hopes a way will be found to resolve the dispute and will continue to act toward that end.”

Israel said it welcomed the report by a U.N. panel which looked into its 2010 seizure of the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks died in the commando assault.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Friday that Turkey would “take all measures which it sees as necessary for freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean”.

He did not elaborate and Israel urged Turkey not to send boats to Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement officially sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.

“Israel assumes that Turkey will respect international law with regard to sailing in the Mediterranean,” the Israeli statement said. It reiterated that Israel regretted the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, but repeated that the Jewish state would not bow to Turkish demands for an apology.

The long-awaited U.N. report was delayed repeatedly to allow for Israeli-Turkish talks on repairing the rift between the two former allies, whose strategic cooperation was seen by Washington as crucial in a Middle East now rocked by upheaval.

A copy of the report was leaked to the New York Times on Thursday.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Turkey issues apology ultimatum to Israel


Turkey’s foreign minister gave Israel one day to apologize for its 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla ship or the country would “resort to Plan B.”

Ahmet Davutoglu said he would not agree to any more delays in the release of the United Nations-authored Palmer Report investigating Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, including a dual Turkish-American citizen.

The report, which originally was scheduled to be released in February, is now set to be released Friday after several agreed-upon delays in an attempt to solve the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey.

“It is not remotely possible for us to agree to a six-month delay,” Davutoglu said Thursday during a visit to Sarajevo, Today’s Zaman reported. “For us the [apology] deadline is the day the U.N. report gets released, or we resort to Plan B.” He did not say what Plan B would be, according to the newspaper.

“We waited patiently for Israel to come to a decision, but it looks like the country is having a hard time arriving at one,” the foreign minister said, adding that “Turkey will be imposing sanctions that are well known by Israel and some other international parties.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turned down an Obama administration request to apologize to Turkey. Israel has offered its “regret.”

The Palmer Report, according to advance copies given to the two countries, reportedly will vindicate Israel for blockading the Gaza Strip.

Relations between Israel and Turkey had begun to deteriorate even before the flotilla incident, beginning with the monthlong Gaza war that began in late December 2008.

Lieberman: Israel’s rejection of apology to Turkey came too late


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday not to apologize to Turkey for last year’s Gaza flotilla raid, but said Israel should have done so earlier.

“It is a shame that we did not make this decision earlier,” Lieberman said in an interview to Channel 2 television on Wednesday. “The fact that it took us some time reflects our lack of confidence.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that Israel will not apologize for the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010, which killed nine Turkish activists.

An official in Jerusalem said that Netanyahu told Clinton that Israel does not oppose the publication of the report of the Palmer Committee, which investigated the events surrounding the flotilla, but that the date of the report’s release depends on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Israel will not apologize to Turkey, despite Clinton request


Israel will hold fast to its decision not to apologize to Turkey for its raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla ship, despite a direct request from the United States, Israeli officials reportedly said.

Israeli media are citing unnamed Israeli officials as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down an Obama administration request to apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, including one Turkish-American citizen, in a Navy commando raid on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The findings of a United Nations inquiry into the incident are expected to be made public early next week. The Palmer report, whose publication was delayed by several weeks in order to give Turkey and Israel more time to reconcile, is reported – according to advance copies given to the two countries – to vindicate Israel for blockading the Gaza Strip.

Turkey has said it will not reconcile with Israel until Israel offers a formal apology and compensates the families of the victims. Israel so far has offered its “regret.“Meanwhile, Ynet reported that Jerusalem is concerned that Turkey will not approve Israel’s new ambassador to the country, who is scheduled to arrive in Ankara shortly after the release of the Palmer report.  Current Ambassador Gabby Levy’s term is scheduled to end in two weeks. Levy had been asked to extend his term for a second time, which does not require Turkey’s approval, according to Ynet, but he refused.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador shortly after the flotilla incident.

Relations between Israel and Turkey had begun to deteriorate even before the flotilla incident, beginning with the one-month Gaza war that began in December 2008.