(MintPress) – On Monday, the Israeli government agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the families of eight Turkish citizens killed during a 2010 attack on an aid ship bound for Gaza. The settlement marked the first time in three years the representatives from the two countries have spoken. “Prime Minister […]
(MintPress) – On Monday, the Israeli government agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the families of eight Turkish citizens killed during a 2010 attack on an aid ship bound for Gaza. The settlement marked the first time in three years the representatives from the two countries have spoken.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life, and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” an official statement said.
President Obama helped broker the agreement during a recent trip to the Middle East declaring the Israeli apology “of great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security.”
Aid flotilla to Gaza
Once warm Israeli-Turkish relations deteriorated following a raid on a Turkish aid ship by Israeli commandos May 31, 2010 during the dead of night. Organizers of the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla hoped to break the Israeli military blockade in place since 2007 and deliver much needed aid to the 1.5 million residents of Gaza.
The aid convoy consisting of six ships left Turkey in a widely-publicized event carrying medicine, food and construction materials. The Mavi Marmara ship also transported 40 international activists mostly from Turkey and European countries.
The ship was boarded by 15 commandos shortly before dawn while Israeli forces fired live rounds from helicopters. Once on board, activists armed with pipes, knives and makeshift weapons fought back against the incursion injuring several Israeli soldiers. While aboard the ship Israeli commandos opened fire killing eight Turkish nationals and one American.
Israel insists that the blockade is needed to stem the flow of weapons to the Hamas government. Humanitarian organizations report that the blockade has hurt the civilian population because citizens lack access to basic necessities like access to food, clean water and resources. According to a 2009 UNICEF report, one in 10 children living in Gaza suffers from severe malnutrition.
Following the incident, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador, ended joint military exercises and demanded an apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.N. Palmer report released September 2011 declared that Israel had used “excessive force” during the operation.
After the apology last week, high-level diplomatic contact between the two countries resumed on Monday when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni over the establishment of a joint committee that will formulate the terms of Israel’s agreement to pay compensation.
“Turkey is examining the possibility of a high-level visit to Israel, probably by Foreign Minister Davutoglu before he visits Gaza and the West Bank. If the compensation agreement is paid without any complications, there is also the option that Turkey will invite high-level Israeli officials to visit Ankara,” said a senior diplomatic source to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
Although bilateral relations have warmed considerably in the past week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintains robust support for the Palestinian people, previously condemning the blockade of Gaza and the proliferation of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
The two countries also take divergent stances regarding the civil war raging in neighboring Syria. According to U.N. figures released last month, the two-year civil war has resulted in the deaths of roughly 70,000 and displaced more than 1 million citizens.
Turkey has generally favored arming rebels with the intention of overthrowing President Syrian Bashar-Al Assad while Israel has taken a more hands-off approach, fearing a new Syrian government could upset the calm between the two countries. Syria and Israel have never established diplomatic relations, but the two have enjoyed relatively peaceful borders following the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.