Israeli PM: No apology to Turkey for flotilla raid
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday remained adamant in his position not to issue an official apology to Turkey for the naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 which killed nine Turkish nationals, Xinhua reported.
Commenting on the release over the weekend of the UN- commissioned Palmer Report regarding the incident, Netanyahu said it validated what Israel knew from the outset.
"The commission determined what we knew from the beginning, that Israel has the full and basic right to defend itself," Netanyahu said at his cabinet's weekly meeting on Sunday.
"We need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended their lives against an assault by violent IHH activists, and for the fact that we acted to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas, a terrorist organization that has already fired over 10,000 missiles and rockets at our civilians," said Netanyahu. "We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to defend our people, our children and our communities."
The prime minister, however, reiterated that Israel has expressed "regret over the loss of life" in the incident, which has since seen a deterioration in the relations between Israel and Turkey.
The Turkish government was outraged following the early publication of the UN review by the New York Times on Thursday, curbing considerable efforts to bury the hatchet between the two countries.
According to the report, drafted by a probe panel headed by Geoffrey Palmer, the former prime minister of New Zealand, Israel' s maritime blockade of Gaza complied with international law and was "imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea," but the naval raid meant to stop the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara from breaching it was " excessive and unreasonable."
The report also provides that Israel should offer financial compensation "for the benefit of the deceased and injured victims and their families" via a joint trust fund.
Beyond affirming the legality of the blockade, the report determines that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that anyone interested in sending humanitarian supplies to the coastal enclave "must do so in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian authority" and transfer the aid via designated land crossings.
Nine Turkish citizens, members of the Turkish rights group IHH, which Israel has claimed to be a "militant" organization, were killed in a confrontation with the Israel Navy forces on May 31, 2010.
While relatively in its favor, Israel on Saturday expressed reservations about the inquiry panel's characterization of the military operation as "excessive and unreasonable."
"As to the actions of Israel's soldiers, given the panel's conclusions regarding the resistance that they encountered when boarding the Mavi Marmara, it is clear that the soldiers' lives were in immediate danger," Joseph Ciechanover, the Israeli representative to the panel, said in a statement.
In a further blow to the already strained relations, Ankara announced Friday a series of measures against Israel, including the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, Gabi Levy, the downgrading of bilateral ties to the level of second secretary, and the suspension of all military agreements between the two countries.
Israeli officials are particularly apprehensive over an announcement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said that his country "would take every precaution deemed necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean," a move that Israeli officials said may lead to a future military confrontation.
As well, Turkey said it has plans to launch a legal battle at the International Court in the Hague, where it will contest the report's conclusion regarding the legality of the Gaza blockade. The Turkish government said it will also assist the families of the victims in the flotilla raid to file suits against Israeli military personnel and politicians in international courts.