Turkey and Israel close in on reconciliation deal

Delegations meet in Jerusalem to finalize compensation over Gaza-bound Turkish activists killed or injured by Israeli commandos

Turkish and Israeli officials have arrived at a formula for an agreement on Israeli compensation for a 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Gaza-bound Turkish boat, that killed nine activists, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Monday.

The sides were meeting in Jerusalem as part of a bid to finalize compensation to the families of the dead and to renormalize relations between the two countries after a three-year freeze.

Leading the Turkish delegation were Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, who met with National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and special envoy to Turkey, attorney Joseph Ciechanover.

The central issue for the week’s meeting was the sum of the Israeli compensation to the families of the Turkish citizens who were killed after Israeli naval commandos were attacked with clubs and metal bars while attempting to commandeer the Marmara.

According to earlier reports, Israel has offered $100,000 to each family, while the families were asking for $1 million each. During a previous round of talks, in Turkey, a framework was said to have been devised under which payments would be based on the victims’ ages, family circumstances and other factors.

Also on the table is redress for some 70 others who were injured in the raid, which Israeli in principle has agreed to pay, Maariv reported on Sunday.

Monday’s statement that a deal was close did not specify the terms of the proposed compensation. “Additional clarifications” were needed on a “few issues,” it said.

Other issues said to be under discussion were an Israeli demand that various criminal lawsuits against IDF officers and Israel officials over the Marmara incident be dropped, and a Turkish demand that Israel ease its blockade of Gaza.

Turkey and Israel once enjoyed close political and military cooperation, but the flotilla incident led Turkey to freeze diplomatic relations. In March, in a phone conversation during the final moments of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for operational errors made in the raid and promised compensation for the victims and their families. Netanyahu agreed to ease, but not lift, the blockade of Gaza in return for Ankara dropping the lawsuits — potentially paving the way for normalization between the two countries.

Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.

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