Israel, Turkey Closer to Agreement, But Issues Remain

YERUSHALAYIM -
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) flank Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (C).
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) flank Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (C).

Israel and Turkey have moved closer to an agreement on the amount of compensation for the families of the nine Turkish nationals killed and wounded during the violent clashes that erupted when Israel Defense Forces boarded the Mavi Marmara in 2010, Western diplomats have told Ha’aretz.

The figure reportedly offered by Israel at this point is $20 million. The Turks had initially demanded $30 million, whereas $15 million was all Israel was prepared to pay.

Officials in Yerushalayim declined to confirm or deny the sums mentioned by the Western diplomats. They would only say that contacts between the sides were continuing, and that the outlook was positive.

But even if the haggling over money may soon draw to a close, other issues remain.

The cancellation of lawsuits against the IDF soldiers and officers who were involved in intercepting the flotilla is a red line issue for Israel, and it is demanding that Turkey passes a law that will void the pending legal actions and block such actions in the future.

Israel also wants the normalization of relations with Turkey to go beyond the symbolic return of ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara. Israel wants to resume its diplomatic dialogue with Turkey, ministerial meetings, mutual visits and other steps. Israel also expects Turkey to commit not to act against Israel in international forums and to stop haranguing Israel in the media.

While the blockade of Gaza has long been a sticking point, Turkey has relented on its demands that it be lifted. On November 8 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that his country was satisfied with the relaxation of restrictions on allowing humanitarian goods into Gaza.

“In terms of Turkish aid, and also the others, Israel has opened its doors, relatively, and contributed to the arrival of the aid in Gaza following the negative stand by Egypt … Our final goal is to finalize the compensation talks and, in parallel, spend efforts to improve the humanitarian conditions in Palestine to be followed by the steps to lift the embargo. As long as developments take place in this direction, Turkish-Israeli relations will improve,” Davutoglu said.

In any event, no agreement is expected before the Turkish local elections on March 30, since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to fear that an agreement with Israel including a compromise on compensation will hurt him politically.