JERUSALEM (AFP)–Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out making an apology to Turkey over an Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent.
“We will not apologize but express our regrets to Turkey,” the Israeli leader said in an interview with private television network Channel 10.
“We don’t want our soldiers to be possibly hauled before international tribunals. … Our soldiers acted in accordance with standards,” he said, stressing an apology could be interpreted as an admission of liability.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after Israel’s right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed Tel Aviv would not apologize to Turkey for the May 31 commando raid.
Lieberman described as “a cheek” Ankara’s demand for an apology before normalizing relations between the former allies.
“The ones who have to apologize are the government of Turkey for supporting terror,” he said. “There will be no apology” from Israel.
Speaking to Channel 10, Netanyahu explained his foreign diplomatic chief’s comments by saying: “In my coalition government, there are different points of view, but the prime minister expresses the voice of the government.”
Israel’s ties with Turkey plunged into crisis following the raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ferry carrying aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday that Ankara wants to turn the page on a year of difficult relations with Israel but that Tel Aviv must apologize for the deadly aid ship assault.
Thousands of Turks gave the Mavi Marmara a rapturous welcome when it docked Sunday at Istanbul’s Sarayburnu following a lengthy refit in a port along the Mediterranean.
According to the ferry’s owner, a Turkish campaign group called IHH, the boat will be part of a new flotilla that will leave for Gaza on May 31, 2011, exactly one year after the deadly raid.