Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has rejected Turkey's request that Israel apologize for its commando raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound aid ship that left nine activists dead, saying it "borders on chutzpah."
Lieberman wants Turkey to apologize to Israel
Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has rebuffed a Turkish demand that Israel apologize for its deadly raid of a Turkish Gaza-bound aid ship in May, which left nine Turkish activists dead.
"I think the matter of an apology borders on chutzpah or beyond," he told Israeli diplomats and journalists in Jerusalem on Sunday. "If anything, we are waiting for an apology from the Turkish government, and not the other way around."
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated his country's demand that Israel apologize for the deaths of the activists, saying an "apology and compensation are the only possible outcome."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly rejected the remarks, which included a panning of US-mediated peace efforts with the Palestinians, saying Lieberman was speaking only for himself.
The aid ship Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops boarded the ship and say they were acting in defense when they began shooting. The incident drew international criticism and severely damaged Israel's relations with Turkey, once a stalwart ally.
The death of nine activists during the raid drew widespread criticism from around the world
The two parties met last month in Geneva to repair their ties and draw up a draft deal to end the crisis. It calls for an Israeli apology, compensation for the victims' families and for a return to full diplomatic ties. Turkey had recalled its ambassador to Israel over the incident.
But Israel has yet to approve the deal and there is significant opposition within the country. There is concern that any such apology would be an admission of liability opening the government or its troops up to prosecution in international courts.
Lieberman is a member of Yisrael Beitenu, an ultra-nationalist party and junior coalition partner to Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party. Political sources say Netanyahu excluded Lieberman from the Geneva talks and sent one of his own confidantes.
Meanwhile, the Mavi Marmara received an enthusiastic welcome back to Turkey on Sunday, as thousands crowded the docks in Istanbul waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting, "Allah is great." The ship had been undergoing repairs in a Mediterranean port.
It's now set to join a new flotilla bound for Gaza on May 31, exactly one year after the controversial raid.
Authors: Holly Fox, Martin Kuebler (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight