(JNS.org) Israel and Turkey have taken reconciliation steps after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the May 2010 altercation aboard the Mavi Marmara.
Following Netanyahu’s apology, it was initially reported that the nations had
announced that their ambassadors will be sent back to each other’s countries,
and that Turkey would cancel the legal action it had brought against Israeli
generals in connection with flotilla incident. But according to Turkish media
reports, Erdogan said Saturday that it was too early to drop the legal action
or to return Turkey’s ambassador to Israel.
“We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they [Israel] move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” Erdogan said, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship that sailed to Israel in an attempt to break the Jewish state’s blockade of the Gaza strip. After militants attacked Israeli soldiers as they boarded, the soldiers fatally shot nine Turkish citizens on the ship. Since the incident, relations had soured between Israel and Turkey.
Netanyahu called Erdogan just before the departure of U.S. President Barack Obama from Israel. In his call to Erdogan, Netanyahu “made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life,” Netanyahu's office said in a statement. He also “apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life” and offered compensation to the families of the victims." Following the call, Erdogan released a statement in which he “accepted the apology.”
Jewish organizations have welcomed the reconciliation announcement. “Events in the region make the renewal of Turkish relations all the more important, especially developments in Syria, which pose dangers to the two countries. Both countries share interests in stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons… We hope this move will lead to the renewal of closer ties between the governments and the people of Israel and Turkey,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement.
“We are delighted that, with the invaluable assistance of President Obama, Turkey and Israel, which have traditionally had long-standing and vibrant bilateral ties, have found a way to mend their differences and move forward in a positive direction,” said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.