Bennett says Erdogan is making Israel regret its flotilla apology

Jewish Home colleague Ayelet Shaked calls Turkish PM an ‘Islamist anti-Semite’

Naftali Bennett at a party meeting on March 18, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett at a party meeting on March 18, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Minister of Economics and Trade Naftali Bennett criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday for his behavior since Israel’s apology to Turkey last Friday for the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed.

“Since the apology was made public, it seems Erdogan is doing everything possible to make Israel regret it, while managing a personal, vitriolic campaign at the expense of Turkish-Israel relations,” Bennett, who is the head of the national religious Jewish Home party, wrote on his Facebook page, in a post titled “IDF fighters, we are always with you.”

Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked went further on Wednesday evening, calling Erdogan an “Islamist anti-Semite” on Channel 2 and reiterating that he was making Israel regret its apology.

Bennett warned Erdogan in his post that should “any future terror be aimed at us, our response will be no less severe,” adding that “no country is doing Israel a favor by renewing ties with it.”

Bennett ended his post by praising the IDF, telling its fighters that it is their duty to do everything to protect Israeli citizens, making sure they know that “the people of Israel are behind you.”

MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad), who was on the Mavi Marmara when it was boarded by the IDF’s Shayetet 13 naval commandos on May 30, 2010, said on Channel 2 Wednesday that “what happened on the Marmara was not an operational mistake. What happened was a hijacking of the boat, an attack on the boat and the killing of nine activists.”

She added that Turkey should demand an apology about the killings, the violence, and the hijacking of the boat, but said that if she were Turkish, she would also feel national pride over Israel’s apology Friday. “Israel refused to apologize for a long time… and, in the end, Israel gave in to the Turks and it’s a source of pride,” said Zoabi.

Last Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement announcing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken with Erdogan and “expressed regret” for “operational errors” made during the raid on the blockade-busting Mavi Marmara. The announcement came just as US President Barack Obama wrapped up his three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories and was about to fly off to Jordan.

Erdogan has consistently and sometimes vehemently opposed Israel in the international arena. Late last month, he compared Zionism to anti-Semitism and other “war crimes,” precipitating a torrent of criticism from Israel and the international community.

On Tuesday, Erdogan outlined Turkey’s conditions for full normalization with Israel. In addition to an apology over the Marmara episode and compensation to the victims, Turkey was also insisting that Israel lift its naval blockage of Gaza, he told lawmakers in the Turkish parliament.

The Turkish leader called the Israeli apology a “victory” for his country and its allies in the region, including Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported. Erdogan also noted that his phone conversation with Netanyahu had been recorded to make the “process safe.” While the apology was initially welcomed as an important first step toward patching up relations, Erdogan on Tuesday said that an Israeli refusal to lift the blockade would be a deal-breaker.

Netanyahu, according to the Prime Minister’s Office account of the phone call, did not agree to lift the blockade. Netanyahu told Erdogan ”that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained,” Friday’s PMO statement said. “The two leaders agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.”

Israel and Turkey have entered negotiations on a compensation package for the affected families, but these talks hit a snag on Wednesday when it appeared disagreements arose over the sum of payments to the families, with Turkey demanding $1 million per victim, and Israel offering $100,000.

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