The high-level security cabinet on Wednesday approved Israel’s newly inked reconciliation deal with Turkey, with seven out of its 10 members voting in favor of the agreement that officially ended years of animosity between the two countries.
The deal, announced on Monday and signed by officials in Jerusalem and Ankara on Tuesday, was opposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of the Jewish Home party.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas), Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu), Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) all voted in favor.
Critics have faulted the accord as a capitulation to Hamas in that it does not provide for the return to Israel of two Israeli civilians believed to be in Gaza and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza since 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The deal also provides for Israel to pay $20 million compensation over a May 2010 IDF raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens after the activists on board attacked the soldiers.
The family of Hadar Goldin, one of the two fallen soldiers whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza, on Wednesday slammed the Turkey deal as a “prize” for the terrorist group.
“This is an agreement that the prime minister led, in an undemocratic step, which goes against the basic values of the IDF and the State of Israel since its founding,” the Goldin family said in a statement released after the cabinet vote. “The prime minister has made Hamas a party in the agreement by way of Turkey, which sponsors the organization. Therefore, the prime minister is encouraging terrorism and giving Hamas a prize.”
The families of the Israeli soldiers and civilians held in the Gaza Strip have been lobbying the government to include the release of their sons as part of the deal.
But Erdan said Wednesday that he wasn’t convinced the Turkish government could negotiate the return of the Israelis from the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip.
“After much research, I am unfortunately not convinced that Turkey could pressure Hamas into returning the Israeli citizens,” he said Wednesday afternoon according to a report in the Hebrew-language Ynet news website.
“We need to do more in order to bring the boys home, so today I demanded in the cabinet to hold a special session… in order to pressure Hamas to return the missing Israelis,” he said.
The families of Avraham Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli believed to be a captive in Gaza, and Oron Shaul, the second fallen soldier whose body is held by Hamas, rallied outside the Prime Minister’s Office ahead of the vote and spoke to several ministers before the cabinet meeting.
On Tuesday, the families met with Netanyahu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the issue.
Netanyahu promised repeatedly to do everything possible for the Israelis in Gaza and appealed to Ban to intervene.
But the prime minister has also stressed that Turkey had agreed to try to assist in this matter, and that the agreement ends years of Israeli-Turkish enmity, protects Israeli soldiers from legal action over the Mavi Marmara affair, leaves the security blockade of Gaza in place, and opens the possibility of major bilateral economic cooperation.