Itongadol.- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s telephone conversationwith Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the start of the process of improving Israeli-Turkish ties, not the end of it, a government official said on Tuesday.
Official: Rebuilding Turkish ties will take patience
The official’s comments came as Erdogan continued boasting of Israel’s apology, and as the Ankara Municipality erected billboards thanking Erdogan for upholding Turkish pride.
“The phone call gives us the potential to have a more positive relationship,” the Israeli official said. “But you have to have patience.”
The Turkish Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan Tuesday as saying that Israel may have mistakenly thought the Mavi Marmara incident would be forgotten.
But this time, he was quoted as saying, “the Israelis met with a different understanding and structure. The AK Party government did not remain silent against this illegality, aggressiveness and massacre.”
He went on to add, “The Israeli apology was important in remembering the martyrs of Turkey and those of Palestine.”
The billboards in Ankara read, “Israel apologized to Turkey. Dear prime minister, we are grateful that you let our country experience this pride.”
The words were superimposed over pictures of a confident Erdogan and a tired, gloomy-looking Netanyahu.
Hurriyet reported that Erdogan, speaking at a party meeting Tuesday, said that Turkey had constantly given Israel three conditions for ending the Mavi Marmara crisis: an apology, compensation payment, and lifting the blockade of Gaza.
“They wanted to express sorrow, but we said no. We wanted the word apology,” Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as saying.
“They said, ‘Isn’t it enough if we pay?’ We said no.”
During the Netanyahu-Erdogan phone call, which came at Ben-Gurion Airport as US President Barack Obama was about to board Air Force One to leave the country, Netanyahu apologized for any operational mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury during the operation to commandeer the Mavi Marmara.
The timing of the apology was carefully considered, The Jerusalem Post has learned, and it was done during Obama’s visit to make it seem like a gesture to the US president and thereby make it easier to sell to the Israeli public.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni spoke Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whom she has known for years, about ending the crisis in Israeli-Turkish ties. According to a Livni spokeswoman, the two did not discuss operational issues such as the compensation package Israel is to pay the families of the nine Turks killed on the ship.
Technical teams that will discuss this issue – the Israeli team led by Joseph Ciechanover and the Turkish one by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, a former ambassador to Israel – are expected to begin meetings this week. In past negotiations between the two countries over the compensation issue, the idea was for Israel to pay directly into a Turkish fund set up for the families, and not to the families individually.
Echoing Erdogan’s remarks, Davutoglu was quoted in Turkish media Tuesday as telling reporters at an Arab League meeting in Doha, “We had three conditions for normalization of relations, which were an apology, compensation, and the lifting of the blockade. As you know, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu officially apologized and said the necessary steps will be taken and the blockade will be lifted.”
This, however, was at odds with the Israeli statements that followed the conversation.
Furthermore, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said Sunday that Israel had no intention of lifting the blockade on Gaza.
Even though Erdogan spoke again Tuesday about the possibility of visiting Gaza and the West Bank to “monitor” whether Israel was implementing its commitment to ease the blockade, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arznc held open the possibility that the visit might not take place as planned.
“A visit by our prime minister to Gaza in April is on the agenda, but it may not be possible as well. This possibility should also be taken into consideration,” he cautioned at a press conference after a regular meeting of the Turkish cabinet on Monday evening.
According to the Today’s Zaman website, Erdogan said he would visit Gaza and the West Bank with Turkish relief organizations to monitor the humanitarian situation there.
Erdogan has said several times in the past that he would visit Gaza, but those visits never materialized, partly because of US pressure on him not to do so.