Israelis push back against Turkey normalization deal
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Israelis push back against Turkey normalization deal

As families of slain soldiers whose bodies are held in Gaza rail against government, survey finds public mostly against landmark rapprochement agreement

Bereaved family members and friends of late Israeli soldier Oron Shaul hand out flyers and bumper stickers to people driving by as they demonstrate at the protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Bereaved family members and friends of late Israeli soldier Oron Shaul hand out flyers and bumper stickers to people driving by as they demonstrate at the protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

More than half of the Israelis are against a deal to restore ties with Turkey, a poll released Monday found, as politicians and families of slain soldiers criticized the agreement announced earlier in the day.

Out of 600 respondents in the survey conducted Monday morning, 33 percent voiced support for the Turkey deal, 56% were opposed and 11% were undecided, according to Channel 10, which commissioned the poll.

There was significantly greater support for the deal among the 100 Arab Israelis surveyed — 72% supported it, compared to just 24% of the 500 Jews polled. Jewish Israelis were overwhelmingly opposed, with 65% saying they did not support the deal.

The survey results came as a number of politicians and public figures came out against the terms of the long-sought deal, which will see ties between Jerusalem and Ankara normalized after six years of bitter recriminations.

As part of the agreement, Israel will pay $20 million as compensation for a 2010 military raid on the Mavi Marmara Gaza blockade-busting ship, which led to the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.

Not included, though, was the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza as well as two citizens being held captive there, leading to anger among family members that the government had abandoned their sons.

The TV channel reported that two unnamed security cabinet ministers have instructed the families of two Israeli soldiers whose remains are held in the Gaza Strip to appeal to the High Court of Justice against the deal.

The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin were opposed to the rapprochement, arguing that Israel should have urged Turkey to pressure Hamas to release the bodies, as well as two other Israeli captives said held by the terror group, as part of the negotiations.

On Sunday, the families set up a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, with dozens rallying against the agreement.

The deal must still gain the approval of the top-level security cabinet, which will meet Wednesday to discuss the agreement.

Already Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reportedly said he would oppose the deal, though he said he would not wage a public campaign to derail the deal.

Another minister, who was not named in press accounts, reportedly also criticized the deal.

“It’s a contemptible move that the prime minister is bringing before the cabinet as a fait accompli,” the minister was quoted by Israeli news site Ynet as saying. “He’s turned us into a rubber stamp.”

Israeli opposition politicians have criticized the deal, while ministers have largely been silent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefs the press on a reconciliation deal with Turkey on Monday, June 27, 2016 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefs the press on a reconciliation deal with Turkey on Monday, June 27, 2016. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

The Goldin and Shaul families will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, Channel 10 reported.

“Netanyahu cares for Gaza and not for our soldiers,” said Zahava Shaul, the mother of slain IDF soldier Oron Shaul earlier Monday. “Netanyahu has not kept his promises. It’s important that Netanyahu know that all of Israel is on our side, and every Jewish mother should know: tomorrow this could be you.

“This is not how you negotiate,” she added.

The family of Hadar Goldin, who was also killed in the 2014 Gaza war, condemned the “bad and problematic” deal, which they said “ignores the pain of the families and the fate of Israel’s heroes,” according to the Walla news website.

“The prime minister’s statements are hollow,” the Goldin family charged. They urged Israeli ministers to vote against the “bad” deal and ensure that the agreement hinges on Hamas’s return of the slain soldiers’ bodies.

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)
IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

A senior Israeli official on Sunday said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had written a letter committing Turkey to work toward their release as part of the deal.

According to the Channel 10 poll, 72% of Israelis thought the return of the bodies should have been included in the deal.

Jerusalem and Ankara announced Monday the terms of the deal, ending years of diplomatic stalemate between the eastern Mediterranean countries and heralding the normalization of ties.

Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the Ashdod port on May 31, 2010. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Israel Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the port of Ashdod, May 31, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Criticizing Netanyahu for agreeing to compensate the families of Turks killed in the Mavi Marmara incident and not bringing home Israelis held captive in Gaza, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Monday the deal was “important,” but hedged his praise by saying Ankara “is the ally of Hamas.

“As in the [Gilad] Shalit incident and in Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu is weak against Hamas because over the years he’s given in to the political threats of [Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor] Liberman and has been dragged along unnecessarily at the expense of Israeli citizens’ security interests,” he added.

Other politicians also criticized the deal, though some said they would reluctantly accept it to reestablish ties with Turkey, once Israel’s closest regional ally.

Already frayed relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship Turkish flotilla that was trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Strip.

The commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A 10th citizen died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.

Under the deal, Israel will pay $20 million in compensation for the deaths caused in the commando raid, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed. In return for the compensation, Turkey agreed not to take legal action against Israel Defense Forces soldiers involved in the incident.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, dismissed criticism by political opponents who decried the paying of compensation to attackers of IDF soldiers as a national humiliation.

“Our vital interests are advanced by this deal,” he said. “This isn’t the start of a honeymoon. And I’m not presenting this agreement through rose-colored glasses. But this agreement strengthens Israel.”

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