Israel's Barak: I don't like apologizing to Turkey but it must be done
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated on Thursday that Israel is considering apologizing to Turkey over a deadly Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara boat last year, killing nine Turkish civilians.
Barak was on a three-day visit to the US to meet with American and United Nations officials. Barak's remarks came at the end of a day he spent with American officials who stressed the importance of the Israeli-Turkish relationship, the Jerusalem Post reported early on Sunday. “We are willing to consider apologizing for problems that occurred during the [Mavi] Marmara operation, if indeed there were such problems,” Barak said.
Turkish and Israeli relations were badly damaged after Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach the Israeli naval blockade, leaving nine civilians dead, including an American citizen. Turkey has since been demanding an official apology and compensation for the families of the victims. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defense, but there were some steps taken by Israeli coalition government members towards considering apologizing to Turkey.
“I don't like it, but that is the choice that must be made,” Barak told reporters in New York. The Israeli defense minister has made the most effort to find ways to end more than a year-long friction with Turkey.
The UN was expected to release a report on the Mavi Marmara incident in May this year, but kept delaying the release of the report, providing a chance for the two countries to reconcile.
Barak said his understanding is that the report includes very important conclusions for Israel, which put Turkey in a corner in terms of the justification for the blockade, the justification for stopping the flotilla and the justification for using force, adding, however, that there was also a problematic element with what happened during the operation, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Barak said he agreed with the American assessment of the significance of their relationship with Turkey and the priority Israel should attach to mending the fractured relationship, the report said. But Barak said, “We are not apologizing for the blockade and we are not apologizing for using force.”
“We don't agree with some things, but we must make a choice between a problematic report and reaching an understanding with Turkey,” the defense minister said.