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Criticism of flotilla apology to Turkey mounts amid Erdogan’s demands of Israel

Israelis hold up placards, including a portrait of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled wanted, during an anti-Turkish protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv on July 8, 2010. Credit: Gili Yaari/Flash 90.
Israelis hold up placards, including a portrait of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled wanted, during an anti-Turkish protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv on July 8, 2010. Credit: Gili Yaari/Flash 90.

Some Israeli leaders are criticizing Israel’s recent apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident in light of the demands Erdoğan has made of Israel since the apology was publicized.

Erdoğan, clarifying initial reports that Turkey-Israel ties had been normalized following his conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that those ties would not be fully restored until Israel both provides financial compensation for the nine Turkish citizens who died in the Mavi Marmara altercation and ends its blockade on Gaza. The Turks who died in the flotilla incident had attacked Israeli soldiers on board.

Israeli Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) on Wednesday wrote on Facebook that Erdoğan “is doing everything he can to make Israel regret” the apology.

“Let there be no doubt—no nation is doing Israel a favor by renewing ties with it. It should also be clear to Erdoğan that if Israel encounters in the future any terrorism directed against us, our response will be no less severe,” Bennett wrote.

Bennett, expressing his support for Israeli soldiers, wrote that they “always do everything, and I mean everything, to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.”

“This is your job. We’ll deal with the rest. The people of Israel stand behind you, we are always with you,” he wrote.

Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, according to Israel Hayom, said Wednesday that the apology to Turkey was a mistake because, “The more you give them the feeling that they are on the side of justice, the higher their level of violence rises.”

Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told the apology was a mistake because Turkey “will not reverse its policies” and “will drag the negotiations on compensation in order not to allow for an exchange of ambassadors.” Inbar called Erdoğan’s recent announcement that he will visit Gaza in April “a slap in our face.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leinter, director of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center civil rights organization, called the apology “pathetic pandering to an Islamic extremist who compared Zionism to fascism and is still trying to indict Israeli officers for war crimes.”

“The United Nations has investigated the Israeli blockade of Gaza and has determined that it is in full compliance with international law,” Darshan-Leinter said in a statement. “The flotilla, which was provided material support by the Turkish government, was a provocation designed to endanger the lives of Israeli sailors.”

In the U.S., Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Israel education group StandWithUs, told that the apology itself “was an extraordinary gesture of good faith on Israel’s part,” but that the reaction by Erdoğan shows how this is a situation of “give a little, and the other side will take a lot” for Israel.

“Watching the video of the [flotilla] incident, one can easily see that the Israeli soldiers that lowered themselves onto the deck of the flotilla never expected to be beaten with clubs and nearly murdered by the waiting violent militants,” Rothstein said. “Were there other ways that Israel could have stopped a belligerent boat headed towards its shores? Certainly. Israel made mistakes. One wonders how America might have dealt with this. But if you watch the video of the [Turkish NGO] IHH people who talked about ‘kill or be killed’ on the Turkish flotilla just before it sailed for Israeli waters, one understands that the intent of the IHH members was anything but peaceful. The bottom line is that the Turkish IHH flotilla participants own responsibility for what occurred.”

Netanyahu’s flotilla apology drew praise from several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. On Wednesday, Merkel called the apology a “correct and brave step” by Israel.

— With reporting by Israel Hayom

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