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Terrorism & Security

Turkey-Israel ties fall to new low in response to UN flotilla report

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador today in protest over a UN report that justified Israel's blockade of Gaza, though not the fatal raid on a mainly Turkish flotilla that sought to run it.

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But the Associated Press reveals suspicion in Jerusalem about Turkey's motives that have hardened Israel's position.

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A senior Israeli government official who had seen the report told the AP earlier this week that Israel has come to believe that Turkey is intent on worsening ties with Israel in order to bolster its own position in the Arab and Islamic world. While Israel does not rule out quiet talks with Turkey on an expression of regret and reparations to families of the dead activists, the report does not ask for an Israeli apology and there will not be one, he said.

In an OpEd in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, Barcin Yinanc writes that while Israel may have thought that time would quell Turkey's anger over the attack on its ship, Turkey is now pursuing a "plan B" against Israel that will result in a further deterioration of relations.

First of all, working on a plan B, in the absence of an apology, means Turkey is not willing to have the present situation with Israel to continue like that. Time is not going to heal the wounds between the two countries. Time will not make Turkey step down from its position, and Turkey is not going to play for time, in the expectation that “in time” Israel will come to the point of apology.

So, if some in the Israeli cabinet believe that by avoiding an apology the worse outcome will be the continuation of the current state of affairs, and – despite its disadvantages – it is a bearable cost; well Turkey is saying: “This is not the case.” With plan B, Turkey is saying that avoiding an apology will have a cost for Israel.

Israel no longer has to worry about losing an ally because it has already done that, Ms. Yinanc writes: "For Israel the stakes are no longer about losing a valuable friend, but it is about gaining a new opponent."

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan now says that in order for Turkey to restore its ambassador to Israel, the Jewish state must not only apologize and pay reparations, but end its naval blockade on Gaza.

That is unlikely, given the UN's backing of Israel's position in its so-called Palmer report, due to be formally released today. The special UN panel that produced the report was led by New Zealander Geoffrey Palmer with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar served as a representative for Israel, while Süleyman Özdem Sanberk represented Turkey's interests on the panel.

The panel concluded that neither Turkey nor Israel intended the sad results of the flotilla, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The Palmer report wrote that the flotilla "acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade. The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH. The actions of the flotilla needlessly carried the potential for escalation," the Post wrote.

Both states took steps in an attempt to ensure that events did not occur in a manner that endangered individuals’ lives and international peace and security. Turkish officials also approached the organizers of the flotilla with the intention of persuading them to change course if necessary and avoid an encounter with Israeli forces. But more could have been done to warn the flotilla participants of the potential risks involved and to dissuade them from their actions.

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