Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly rejected an offer by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to write an apology to Barak’s Turkish counterpart for possible “operational errors” that took place when the IDF raided the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
The Israeli daily Haaretz, citing unnamed Foreign Ministry sources, reported Sunday that Barak, who has advocated an apology since the incident, came forward with the proposal to try to repair the two countries’ frayed relations after the elections — but that Netanyahu opposed it.
The newspaper said Barak told Netanyahu that, since he was leaving politics anyway, he was ready to take any heat for the apology — there could be wider diplomatic implications were the premier or President Shimon Peres to formally apologize — and be the subject of any criticism that may have ensued from it.
Netanyahu had reportedly mulled an apology to Turkey in the summer of 2011, but then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman voiced strong opposition to the idea, causing the prime minister to worry that the coalition would collapse if Israel went ahead.
News of Barak’s initiative comes on the heels of separate reports that claimed an Israeli-initiated effort to heal ties with Turkey, which saw officials from Jerusalem meet their Turkish counterparts in Rome three weeks ago, ended in failure.
Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, accompanied by former Foreign Ministry director general Joseph Ciechanover, held talks in the Italian capital with Turkish Foreign Ministry Director Feridun Sinirlioğlu, to try to formulate terms for easing the rift between the two countries that has strained relations over the past three years.
But the contacts did not produce a breakthrough, Channel 2 reported Saturday night, and the Israelis came home empty-handed.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni made her own effort to ease the strains by seeking a meeting in New York late last year with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, but he refused to see her, the news report said.
The report added that Israel is feeling the pressure to mend the rift ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit here next month, and that Livni’s decision to join Netanyahu’s nascent coalition might make the task easier. Obama is said to have urged both sides privately to heal their ties.
The JTA contributed to this report.