Turkish and Israeli representatives held two days of talks - on Sunday and Monday - in Geneva to discuss a resolution to the Turkish-Israeli diplomatic crisis. There has been a lot of coverage and speculation about this in Turkish and world media this week.
One of the most interesting things I have noticed is that there has been a complete lack of any mention that the IDF commandos were ‘just defending themselves’ when they shot and killed nine people and wounded dozens more on the Mavi Marmara during the IDF’s attack and seizure of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
The reports I have read and heard state that the talks are not about whether Israel would apologize and pay compensation but about how it would.
This is a summary of what I have read and heard in the past two days.
In these talks, according to an Israeli diplomatic source, "above all [Israeli PM Netanyahu] is determined to see that IDF soldiers and officers will not be open to lawsuits and arrests around the world."
The U.S. has proposed a formula where the Israeli government would apologize not to the Turkish government but to the families of those killed by IDF commandos during the attack and seizure.
According to an Israeli official, the Israel government is searching for wording to include in any statement it made that would state that Israel "did not act in malice" or "wantonly" when the IDF commandos attacked and seized the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
According to Turkish officials, Israel has agreed to pay compensation to the families of those who were killed and damages to those who were wounded, and Israel has also offered to very formally express its ‘regrets’ to Turkey and the Turkish people about what happened because the Israeli government feels that this would be acceptable to the Israeli people.
Turkish PM Erdogan has made several statements that the Turkish government is willing to improve ties with Israel but the government also maintains its position that Israel needs to officially apologize to the Turkish government, pay compensation, immediately submit its report to the U.N. Panel of Inquiry, and lift the embargoes on Gaza.
The families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara have all stated that they are not interested in an Israeli apology or compensation. They insist that they want those responsible for the deaths of their family members be brought to justice.
The family members have also stated that if Israel were to pay compensation it would have to be ‘a punishingly large amount which Israel would feel the pain of paying’ and it would be used to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. The families also stated that it would be most appropriate for this aid, which would be bought with money paid by Israel as compensation to the families, to be delivered to Gaza by a flotilla.
The Jerusalem Post reports that:
Sources close to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said that an apology to Turkey would be no less than a "surrender to terrorism."
"Israel needs to ask for a Turkish apology, and for it to pay compensation for the aid it gave those supporting terrorists and the IHH, which countries such as Germany have called a terrorist organization."
UPDATE - Two new items were just posted on Turkish newspapers’ websites.
Silvan Shalom, Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, in a radio interview in Israel today is reported to have said that apologizing to Turkey is ‘unthinkable’ and that the Mavi Marmara was going to Gaza in order to incite Israel and that if an apology was to be made it should be made by Ankara, and on the subject of compensation, both sides should pay it because Israel also suffered damage in the flotilla affair. He is also reported to have said that the Turkish-Israeli relationship was important and dialog between the two counties was always a positive thing.
Ron Dermer, an advisor to PM Netanyahu, in an interview with the Associated Press today is reported to have said that Turkey and Israel are working on an agreement which is ‘acceptable to both sides’, that Tel Aviv and Ankara are in continuing contact, and that Israel has asked Turkey to send the Turkish ambassador back to Israel.
My analysis: The Turkish people and government are willing to restore ties with Israel, but only if Israel meets certain conditions.
Also, a general election is going to be held in Turkey in about six months, and even though the CHP has been growing stronger recently, it seems right now that the AKP will probably be able to win enough seats and stay in power with a small majority. But this is by no means definite; the election could end in a coalition government’s having to be formed.
Keeping this in mind it is easy to understand that PM Erdogan doesn’t need to be very flexible or even actively pursue these talks because:- Not restoring ties with Israel will neither win nor lose the ruling AKP any votes. The current situation has been going on for 6 months and has already had any effect it might have on voters. - Restoring ties with Israel, without Israel clearly agreeing to the stated conditions, could easily lose the ruling AKP 5%, and possibly as much as 15%, of the vote to religious and nationalist parties. - Restoring ties with Israel, with Israel clearly agreeing to the stated conditions, could only win the ruling AKP from 2% to 5% of the vote.
On a different subject -
I have heard this U.S. law being discussed concerning any legal actions which the U.S. might take against those involved in the IDF’s attack on and seizure of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla - especially in regard to any IDF officers and commandos involved in it who hold both U.S. and Israeli citizenship.
Does anyone have any thoughts about it?
§ 1652. Citizens as pirates
Whoever, being a citizen of the United States, commits any murder or robbery, or any act of hostility against the United States, or against any citizen thereof, on the high seas, under color of any commission from any foreign prince, or state, or on pretense of authority from any person, is a pirate, and shall be imprisoned for life.