Israel backed out of flotilla apology three times, report says 27Jun2011 June 27, 2011

Hürriyet Daily News ISTANBUL   -   27 June 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly accepted Turkey’s request for an apology for the killing of Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, but backed out on three separate occasions due to fear his coalition government might fall.

Israel’s prime minister was set to apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine activists in an ill-fated aid flotilla to Gaza, daily Hürriyet reported Monday, citing information leaked from secret meetings between Ankara and Tel Aviv.

The meetings were held in Geneva following a slight thaw in tensions between the two countries in the wake of Turkey’s decision to send water bombers to assist Israel in extinguishing forest fires in December. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Turkey for the gesture and had his photos taken with the Turkish pilots of the planes.

Relations improved significantly during the secret meetings and Israel agreed to apologize to Turkey and pay compensations to the families of the nine people who were killed when Israeli commandos raided an aid ship en route to Gaza in May 2010, said the report.

Netanyahu, however, backed out of the agreement due to fear his coalition government might fall and decided instead to “express his sorrow” for the incident.

Lieberman effect

The Israeli government said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman could have used such an apology as an excuse to pull out of the government and for his own rightwing propaganda purposes.

Netanyahu’s representative, Moshe Ya’alon, asked the Turkish side to “understand the pressure from public opinion.”

“We have a public opinion as well and the ones who were attacked were Turkish citizens. We cannot take a step backward,” an Ankara official reportedly said in response to Ya’alon.

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