Opposition lawmakers railed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday for reaching a deal to restore ties with Turkey that involves paying millions of dollars in compensation to the families of Turks killed in a violent skirmish with IDF troops in 2010.
After months of negotiations, Israel and Turkey reached a rapprochement agreement Sunday, ending years of diplomatic fallout following the deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, an Israeli official said. The deal is set to be formally announced on Monday.
Previously tight relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded after Israeli commandos staged a pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla that was trying to breach Israel’s security blockade of the Hamas-run Strip, intercepting the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and were violently attacked by those on board.
Nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A 10th died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after the capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas. The restrictions, aimed at preventing Hamas from importing weapons, were tightened a year later when the terror group, which is committed to destroying Israel, took control of the enclave in a violent coup against Fatah.
The deal to restore diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara includes $20 million in Israeli compensation for the families of Turkish victims of the raid, as well as a Turkish commitment to help free Israeli prisoners and the bodies of two soldiers held in Gaza.
“Netanyahu again puts his tail between his legs with Hamas, harms IDF soldiers without blinking, and harms the families of the missing [soldiers and civilians],” Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit said on Facebook. “Once again Mr. Security strengthens the radicals and weakens Israel.”
His fellow party member Itzik Shmuli said that while relations with Turkey were important, Netanyahu went “too far” with the terms of the accord. “Where is the old [Defense Minister Avigdor] Liberman who would yell right about now that they’re giving a reward for terrorism?” he asked.
Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, who reportedly plans to run against Netanyahu in the next general elections, said he hoped the news reports about the Turkey deal were incorrect.
“If they are true, this is a national humiliation and an invitation for more flotillas and libels by Israel haters,” he said.
Joint List MK Hanin Zoabi, who took part in the May 31, 2010, flotilla which aimed to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, said that the government’s acquiescence to compensating the victims was an admission of guilt to “murdering nine people, of injuring dozens, and of kidnapping and piracy on the high seas.”
A senior Israeli official rejected her claim, saying it wasn’t a sign of accepting responsibility, but “a humanitarian gesture.” The official said Israel wouldn’t transfer the funds until the Turkish parliament passed a motion to prevent prosecution of Israeli troops involved in the incident, Channel 2 reported.
Zoabi criticized the deal for not going far enough to lift the blockade. She called for more flotillas to Gaza until it ended.
A senior Israeli official said a press conference would be held Monday to announce the details of the historic compromise, with the sides signing on the agreement a day later.
The official spoke from Rome, where negotiators met Sunday to finalize the agreement and where Netanyahu also landed on Sunday for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Palestinian peace efforts.
The families of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014, had called for the government to make sure the return of their sons was included in the agreement. A fourth Israeli man is also being held in Gaza, according to officials.
The Israeli official said the deal would be signed Tuesday by Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold and his Turkish counterpart.
Both sides have been pushing to complete the deal in recent months, with Israel in search of a potential customer for its offshore gas exports and NATO member Turkey wanting to restore its regional clout, analysts say.
The United States has also pushed for the two countries, once close regional allies and economic partners, to resolve the dispute as it seeks cooperation in the fight against extremists from the Islamic State terror group.
The agreement is set to go before Israel’s top-level security cabinet for approval on Wednesday, according to media reports and an Israeli official who requested anonymity.
Two of Turkey’s key conditions for normalization — an apology and compensation — were largely met earlier, leaving its third demand, that Israel lift its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, as the main obstacle, according to the Israeli official.
Under the reported terms of the deal, Israel will allow the completion of a much-needed hospital in Gaza, as well as the construction of a new power station and a desalination plant for drinking water.
Turkey’s aid to Gaza would also be channeled through the Israeli port of Ashdod rather than sending it directly to the Palestinian enclave, the reports said.
Turkey has also committed to keeping terror group Hamas from carrying out activities against Israel from its country, Hebrew-language media reported Sunday.
Hamas would continue to be able to operate from Turkey for diplomatic purposes, the paper said.
There have been three wars between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in Gaza since 2008, including a devastating 50-day conflict in the summer of 2014.