High Court dismisses petitions against Turkey detente deal
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High Court dismisses petitions against Turkey detente deal

Justices find insufficient grounds for striking down agreement, say government has authority to compensate Marmara victims

Illustrative: Waiting for High Court justices to arrive in the courtroom. (Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: Waiting for High Court justices to arrive in the courtroom. (Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)

Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a series of petitions seeking to nullify the rapprochement deal with Turkey on Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence to support their claims.

The court rejected the objections, including one from the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, right-wing groups, and the families of two soldiers whose remains are held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The judges voted unanimously that there was no grounds to intervene in the government’s decision to ratify the deal, noting that the court only does so in extreme cases.

“The petitioners did not successfully demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances in this case to merit intervention in the reconciliation agreement,” Justice Uri Shoham said.

The judges also ruled that there were no grounds to reject Israel’s payment of $20 million in compensation to the families of 10 Turks killed in a May 2010 IDF raid on a ship trying to break its blockade of Gaza. The justices said it was within the government’s authority to approve such a measure in exchange for the renewal of ties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces Israel's reconciliation deal with Turkey on Monday, June 27, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces Israel’s reconciliation deal with Turkey on Monday, June 27, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

The deal, announced in June and signed and ratified by both parties, restores full diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara in return for Turkey committing to tackle terrorism and to end its opposition to Israel in international forums.

Israel will in return allow Turkish aid into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, while still maintaining its overall blockade of the coastal enclave. The deal also allows Turkey to build a power station and desalination plant in Gaza.

“The agreement [does not make] effective reference to the close ties between Turkey and the Hamas terror organization,” one of the petitions to the court by the Shurat HaDin Law Center argued, and claimed that in negotiating the deal with Turkey, Israel had the opportunity to “limit Hamas activities that are planned and directed from Turkish territory.”

Under the terms of the deal, Turkey pledged to keep Hamas from carrying out activities against Israel from its territory, although Hamas would continue to be able to operate from Turkey for diplomatic purposes.

The rapprochement agreement also faced sharp criticism from the families of Israeli soldiers whose remains are held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as the families of two Israeli citizens believed to be captive in the coastal enclave.

Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)
Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

The parents of Sgt. Oron Shaul, killed in Israel’s 2014 war in the Strip and whose body is being held there, and family of Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014 and who is believed to be still alive, had long petitioned for the agreement with Turkey to included a demand that their loved ones be returned to Israel. The parents of Hadar Goldin, also killed the 2014 war and whose body is also help by Hamas, have joined the protest against the deal.

The father of Hisham al-Sayed, the second Israeli held in Gaza, has called on the other families to cease their campaigns to pressure the government.

Sha’ban al-Sayed, whose a mentally ill son wandered into the Strip Gaza in April 2015 and has not been heard from since, told Army Radio on Tuesday that pressuring the Israeli government “will only hurt the interests of our boys.”

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