ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–Local Israeli media assailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, slamming his efforts to offer an apology to Turkey to normalize bilateral relations with the country.
Netanyahu is facing pressure from domestic public opinion, in addition to his coalition government partners, for his efforts to normalize bilateral relations with Turkey.
An opinion article titled “Don’t you dare apologize” published on Sunday by Yediot Ahronoth’s news website, Ynetnews, directly addressed Netanyahu.
“Guess what: It seems like you’re no longer living in the sovereign state of Israel. You traveled back in time to the Ottoman Empire,” the article said, addressing Netanyahu with his nickname “Bibi.”
“I am not apologizing for the flotilla incident. Moreover, you have no right whatsoever to apologize on my behalf. No regrets, no apologies and nothing that even resembles it,” the article said, suggesting that Turkish people should be ashamed of what he called a “provocation,” referring to the Israeli raid which led to the killing of Turkish civilian activists in May.
Last Sunday and Monday, senior Israeli and Turkish diplomats held talks in Geneva for the normalization of bilateral relations, which have severely deteriorated since the May 31 killing of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on the Mavi Marmara, which was part of an aid flotilla destined for Gaza.
The Geneva talks were initiated after Turkey, on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s orders, sent fire-fighting aircraft to assist in the battle against a devastating fire in Israel.
The core point of disagreement in talks between Israeli and Turkish diplomats is the word “apology,” Ozdem Sanberk, who represents Turkey at the UN inquiry panel for the flotilla incident, confirmed last week, underlining that the Turkish side has not negotiated a single word other than the word “apology.”
Sanberk, in remarks published by the Turkish daily newspaper Taraf on Monday, said the Geneva talks agreed on the “parameters” but not on the “words.”
“As a matter of fact, in Geneva, an agreement was reached over the parameters more than an agreement over the words: Israel will offer apology and pay compensation,” Sanberk was quoted as saying by Taraf, while he noted that relations will be “normalized,” going straight back to May 30. In line with the principle agreement in Geneva, Turkey will in exchange send an ambassador to Tel Aviv, he added.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who earlier ruled out arguments on wording of an expected apology from Israel, has given an example to make Ankara’s expectations more clear.
“Israel needs to apologize to the Turkish nation, not to the individuals. Wasn’t the Turkish nation apologized to when the Turkish ambassador was insulted? Now, it will be the same. The Turkish nation and the Turkish state are not separate things,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying in remarks published in the Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Safak on Monday. His comments came while speaking with a group of journalists on board a plane en route from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to Turkey on Sunday.
Davutoglu was referring to an apology offered by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in early 2010 after he caused a diplomatic scandal with the country. Ayalon summoned Turkey’s former ambassador for a meeting in January but had him sit on a much lower chair and refused to shake his hand.
Soon after the incident, Ayalon conceded that his behavior toward the envoy was inappropriate. Yet, after Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Ayalon’s admission was insufficient and demanded a full apology, Israel sent a formal letter of apology to the ambassador.
“I had no intention of humiliating you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived,” Ayalon said in the letter. “Please convey this to the Turkish people, for whom we have great respect. I hope that both Israel and Turkey will seek diplomatic and courteous channels to convey messages, as two allies should.”