Normalization talks between Turkey & Israel reach roadblock

Gov’t sources from Jerusalem say Ankara’s insistence on calling payments to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims “punitive damages” and not “compensation” brought the negotiations to a halt.

By Shlomo Cesana


Government officials have signaled that Israel’s efforts to normalize its diplomatic relations with Turkey have failed.

Still not seeing eye to eye, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – Photo: Reuters

Israel-Turkey relations soured in May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship Mavi Marmara to enforce Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. The commandos were attacked by the passengers on board and the ensuing clash left nine Turkish nationals dead and several Israeli soldiers wounded.

During U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel in March, Obama arranged a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which Netanyahu apologized for the deaths of the Turkish citizens during the Marmara raid.

Israel and Turkey agreed to start negotiations with the stated goal of bring relations back to normal, including returning ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv.

The negotiations, however, failed to produce an agreement. According to government sources, the two issues that caused the talks to deadlock were the amount of compensation the Turkish victims’ families would be paid and the very definition of the restitution payment. A compromise could have been reached over the sum to be paid, the source said, but the root of them problem was Turkey’s insistence on calling the payments “punitive damages” and not “compensation,” which carries different legal ramifications to which Israel could not agree.

Since the breakdown of relations Erdogan has often been a vociferous critic of Jerusalem. Last week the Turkish prime minister accused Israel of being behind the July 3 military coup in Egypt, saying he had evidence of the Jewish state’s involvement in the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist former President Mohammed Morsi.

Erdogan said his evidence of the Israeli plot was a meeting between a “Jewish intellectual” and the justice minister in France, where the intellectual said the Muslim Brotherhood would lose power even if it were democratically elected. Erdogan’s statement led MK Avigdor Lieberman to compare him to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

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