The Israeli apology to Turkey – two [mirror-image + nearly-identical] texts

In fact, this was clearly all worked out well in advance — the long-awaited but still not expected apology, by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to the Turkish people via his counterpart, Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, for the deaths of nine Turkish men.

The brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama [and, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was instrumental in the process, which Davutoglu said was “interesting”…]

The Turkish Government has apparently produced two [mirror-image and nearly-identical] texts, in English and in Turkish, here, which are also reproduced below:
Continue reading “The Israeli apology to Turkey – two [mirror-image + nearly-identical] texts”

What Obama said to get Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey for Mavi Marmara "operational errors"

We really don’t know, yet, what U.S. President Barack Obama said, or did, to get Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to offer, finally, an apology to Turkey for the deaths of 9 Turkish men [one of them a 19-year-old Turkish-American high school student]… but the fact that one of the dead was a 19-year-old American high school student Furkan Dogan may have been part of Obama’s leverage.

Israel has needed to resolve this situation, in which its apology was required by clear and repeated Turkish demands, for a long time.

There were hints that a breakthrough might be coming, but nothing solid until last night’s surprise announcement.

Obama’s insistence offered Netanyahu a relatively “face-saving” way to do it. An statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said that Netanyahu told the Turkish Prime Minister that “the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional“. UPDATE: The Israeli Government Press Office has just sent around, by email, a new version, which says Netanyahu “made clear that the tragic outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident was not intended by Israel and that Israel regrets the loss of human life and injury“.

Haaretz reported here that “During the conversation, Netanyahu made it clear that ‘the tragic consequences of the Mavi Marmara flotilla were unintentional, and Israel regrets any injury or loss of life’.”

The Israeli statement also said, with notable pride about its own investigation into the “maritime incident”, that “In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation“.
[UPDATE: The new version sent around by the Israeli GPO is almost identical to the original, above, but the word “nonliability” has been added.  It now reads as follows: “In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the Prime Minister expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/nonliability”.]

Turkish and Israeli diplomats engaged in months of negotiations about the wording of the apology itself and the compensation Israel would offer. Israel insisted on limiting the blame to “operational errors”.

There was, reportedly, a three-way phone call between Obama, Netanyahu, and Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, made from a portable trailer set up on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. Israeli journalists said it was a 30-minute conversation. The New York Times reported here that the call lasted 10 minutes.

The New York Times reported that “senior Turkish government officials said: ‘The Israeli prime minister, in a phone call that lasted 10 minutes, apologized to the Turkish nation for all operational mistakes evident in an investigation that led to human loses, agreed to offer compensation’.”

Obama announced the result either just before or just after Air Force One was in the air, taking off from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport en route to Amman.

A short while later, a statement published by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, and sent by email from the Government Press Office [GPO], said:
“…The Prime Minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he saw Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper and expressed his appreciation for the latter’s remarks. The Prime Minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation”.

Turkish officials confirmed that Erdogan had, “on behalf of Turkey”, accepted the apology proferred by Netanyahu.

UPDATE: In the new version sent around by the Israeli GPO, the following is omitted: The Israeli statement claimed that “The two men agreed to restore normalization between Israel and Turkey, including the dispatch of ambassadors and the cancellation of legal steps against IDF soldiers”.

The revised Israeli statement is now posted on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website, here

The Times of Israel reported here that Erdogan said, shortly after the announcement of the apology + its acceptance, that “it was too early to cancel legal steps against Israeli soldiers who took part in the raid on the Mavi Mamara”.

As the Times of Israel noted, “four IDF generals stand accused of war crimes over the incident. The indictment, prepared last summer, sought ten aggravated life sentences for each officer ostensibly involved in the 2010 raid — including former chief of the IDF General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin”.

The Times of Israel added that, according to the Hurriyet daily, Erdogan also said the exchange of ambassadors between Israel and Turkey would not take place immediately…Erdogan said that, in the past, Israel had ‘expressed regret several times, refusing to offer a formal apology’ over the killings of nine Turkish citizens of the Marmara in 2010 — the incident that led to the freezing of Israeli-Turkish ties. However, Ankara had ‘insisted on an apology’, he said. That apology had finally been delivered by Netanyahu on Friday, he said. ‘All our demands have now been met with that apology which was offered the way we wanted’.”

The Times of Israel also reported, in the same story, that “Erdogan also announced plans to visit Gaza, possibly next month. Hamas’s Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, calling Netanyahu’s apology ‘a diplomatic victory for Ankara’, confirmed Erdogan would visit ‘in the near future’, and said this trip would mark ‘a significant step to ending the political and economic blockade’ of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip”. According to this report, Erdogan may visit both Gaza and the West Bank in April, “in the context of a general effort to contribute to the resolution process”, Erdogan is quoted as saying.

Other Hamas sources were less enthusiastic about the apology, however.

The Israeli statement said that “Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained”.

But, this rang a bit hollow a day after four rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza, with two hitting Israeli areas, after which the Israeli Defense Forces announced that they were reinstating crippling restrictions on Gaza’s fishermen that were lifted in a cease-fire agreement with Hamas brokered by Egypt after Operation Pillar of Clouds last November.

In a separate but related development, Hamas “complained to Egypt Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters in response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip”. This is reported here. It was also reported, in another story, here, that “Gaza’s Hamas rulers have arrested two Salafist militants, sources close to the Palestinian Islamist hardliners said Friday, after a Salafist group claimed a rocket attack on Israel. A coalition of Salafist groups in Gaza, which oppose the Hamas regime, claimed responsibility for the firing of two rockets at southern Israel on Thursday while US President Barack Obama was visiting…”

Reuters reported here that “Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state. Israel had previously balked at apologizing to the Turks, saying this would be tantamount to admitting moral culpability and would invite lawsuits against its troops. Voicing until now only ‘regret’ over the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has offered to pay into what it called a ‘humanitarian fund’ through which casualties and their relatives could be compensated. A source in Netanyahu’s office said opening a new chapter with Turkey ‘can be very, very important for the future, regarding what happens with Syria but not just what happens with Syria’.”

UPDATE TWO: Laura Rozen wrote on Al-Monitor here that “Once close Israeli-Turkish ties have been deeply strained since Israel’s 2008 Cast Lead operation against Hamas, and more broadly as Erdogan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Peace (AKP) party has moved against the country’s once dominant secular military commanders. Military ties formed the backbone of the Turkish-Israeli alliance at its height, said Dan Arbell, a former Israeli diplomat studying the relationship as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Instition. Even the restoration of formal diplomatic ties now–as well as brisk economic trade–is not likely to return Israel and Turkey to the level of rapport they enjoyed in the past, given the reduced role the Turkish military plays in the country under Erdogan and the AKP, he said. ‘This begins a process of normalization, but I do not see it bringing the countries back to the level of relations they had between them in the 1990s’, Arbell, Israel’s former Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington, told Al-Monitor in an interview Friday, adding that there has been, however, a growing “’convergence of interests’ between Ankara and Jerusalem, including on the Syria conflict and Iran. Though Turkish-Israeli reconciliation was certain to be on the agenda for discussion during Obama’s conversations in Israel this week, Arbell said he was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the diplomatic breakthrough”.

The Haaretz report noted that “Over the past few months, Israel and Turkey have been trying to reach an agreement over the wording of an apology, in an attempt to end the bilateral crisis. Just a few weeks ago, Turkey’s Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlio?lu met in Rome with Israel’s National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and envoy Joseph Ciechanover. But during this meeting the parties failed to reach a magic formula to bring the crisis to an end. Part of the reason the reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel encountered difficulties was because of Erdogan’s inflammatory comments a few weeks ago. During a United Nations Conference in Vienna, Erdogan called Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’, and compared it to fascism. Erdogan’s comments caused great anger in both Jerusalem and Washington”.

Perhaps Erdogan said something placatory today, too.

[Israel’s former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, now chairman of the Knesset Foreign Relations + Defense Committee, said that unless Erdogan apologized as well, in today’s phone call, for his “crime against humanity” accusation, Israel’s dignity would be compromised”. Brent Sasley wrote here a blog post today saying that “It’s hard to avoid noticing that the apology was only realized with Avigdor Lieberman gone from the Foreign Ministry. Blustering and belligerent, Lieberman was never the right choice for the position. If Bibi’s apology can warm his relationship with Obama, reset the relationship with Turkey, and lead to the inclusion rather than exclusion of Israel in global and regional forums, conferences, and exercises, then it’s hard to argue bringing Lieberman back is a good thing. In fact, the obvious conclusion is the opposite one: Israel can accomplish much with Foreign Minister who’s pragmatic and has a broader sense of Israel’s position in the world”.]

Now, back to the opening question: what did Obama do to get Netanyahu to take this step?  Here’s one strange theory, from The Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff: “It is no coincidence that Netanyahu spoke by phone with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan just as President Obama was departing Israel for Jordan, opening the door to a mutual return of ambassadors. Mending ties between the two leaders has long been a U.S. objective. The fact that Obama delivered a highly symbolic (if indirect) rebuke to Erdogan by visiting the tomb of Theodor Herzl — implicitly endorsing the ideology that the Turkish leader recently called a “crime against humanity” — almost certainly gave cover for Netanyahu to reach out to Ankara”... This is posted here.

What Obama said [to the Israeli people]: "the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized"

In an address that was labelled as the centerpiece of his trip to Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama made a speech in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon in which he said he was speaking directly to the Israeli people.  It had two parts:  the first reaffirmed the Israeli narrative*; the second said that the creation of a Palestinian state was necessary, and just.

(1) “For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations.  It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.  Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.  That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own”.
(2) “I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger. Never. (Applause.) More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge. These are the facts. These aren’t my opinions, these are facts. But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet. I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal … That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives…(Applause.)That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.) And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. (Applause.) … But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. (Applause.) And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad = You are not alone”. (Applause.)
(3) “But today, Israel is at a crossroads. It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers. There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention. And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future. (Applause.) I recognize that. I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace. I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future. And that’s part of a democracy. That’s part of the discourse between our two countries. I recognize that. But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends. I also believe that. (Applause.) Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points:

1) Peace is necessary…

2) Peace is also just … the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. (Applause.) Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. (Applause.) It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes. (Applause.) Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. (Applause.) Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land. (Applause.)

3) Peace is possible. It is possible. (Applause.) I’m not saying it’s guaranteed. I can’t even say that it is more likely than not. But it is possible. I know it doesn’t seem that way. There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk. There are costs for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act. I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo. And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, ‘Ah, enough. Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control’. But it’s possible. Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples. Two states for two peoples. (Applause.)

(4) “Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. (Applause.) Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn. (Applause.) I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks. But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process. I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people”.
Continue reading “What Obama said [to the Israeli people]: "the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized"”

What Obama said: "Palestinians deserve a state of their own"

In his joint press conference in the Ramallah Muqata’a on Thursday, with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said:
(1) “Marhaba” [Arabic for “Hi”] – This is posted on the White House website, here.
(2) “I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own.” – This is posted on the White House website, in an edited version [which omits the text in bold, above] here, with the full version here.
(3) “Here in the West Bank, I realize that this continues to be a difficult time for the Palestinian Authority financially. So I’m pleased that in recent weeks the United States has been able to provide additional assistance to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances. Projects through USAID will help strengthen governance, rule of law, economic development, education and health. We consider these to be investments in a future Palestinian state*”
*Details of this assistance were revealed after Obama left the region, and will be examined in another post here.
(4) “the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world. We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel — two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace”.
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Obama visits Ramallah

Apparently, in his visit to Ramallah today, U.S. President Obama told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about some new and/or additional assistance, during their hours together [from 11:00 am until their press conference, which started sometime after 1:30 pm] … but no specifics were announced.

A large part of Ramallah was shut down [I’m told that even pedestrians were not allowed out on the streets] in a large zone around the Ramallah Presidential headquarters, the Muqata’a [once a British Mandate headquarters, where part was used as a prison by Israeli forces during the first Intifada].

Both men seemed relatively relaxed and happy, but Obama had the bigger smile… at least upon arrival.

Obama came in a helicopter with or some 9 or 10 helicopter escorts:

Noga Tarnopolsky had a good shot of a helicopter flying over central Ramallah’s Manara Square, which she Tweeted here.

American helicopter - perhaps the one carrying Obama - flying over Ramallah's Manara Square
US helicopter - perhaps the one carrying Obama - flying over Ramallah's Manara Square

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Guest Post: There are people who are hurting in Gaza

British humanitarian health workers
barred entry into Gaza

By Peter Smith and Catherine Thick

Although passage to and from Gaza via Israel’s crossing points is severely restricted by the Israeli military, until now we have been fortunate to be granted entry permits. But, our recent request for entry has been refused – without explanation — despite the Israeli general claim that restrictions are easing.

As osteopaths and acupuncturists we have volunteered in Gaza and the West Bank over the last five years, treating those with limited access to health care. We have made eight trips to Palestine since 2008 , and worked three times in Nablus before concentrating more on Gaza. Our motivation is neither political nor religious, but rather simply to help relieve suffering.

We are, however, strongly opposed to the inhumane treatment of the people of Gaza, and concerned at media under-reporting of the lives of the Palestinian people.

This leaves room for virtually-unanswered parodies about the high life lived by some of Gaza’s rich and privileged – a life which the international media sees and even shares during their visits to the Gaza Strip. These parodies have been devised and promoted by Israeli government officials whose responsibilities include dealing with the media. Pro-Israeli organizations working to influence the media have also produced similar pointed commentaries.

But, the existence of this apparent paradox does not in any way negate the reality facing many of Gaza’s 1.6 million Palestinian residents who are poor and suffering and struggling.

Waiting once at the Erez crossing, we spoke to a foreign journalist who explained that Israel banned all its journalists from working in Gaza after Israel’s “disengagement” in 2005.

While Israelis are now barred from personally witnessing what is going on in Gaza, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza, meanwhile, have no way to move in or out of Gaza, from which Israel carried out its unilateral “disengagement” of some 8,000 Israeli settlers and the Israeli forces protecting them in September 2005. The “protection” the Israeli forces offered in Gaza, however, was only for the Israelis; the Palestinian population living under Israel’s military occupation suffered from severe clamp-downs on their own internal movement, and the military firing that constituted much of that “protection”.

We witnessed life in Gaza under the sanctions imposed in mid-2007 by the Israeli government and administered by the Israeli military, when Hamas took control in Gaza after its rout of Fatah/Palestinian security services. There have been recurring hostilities ever since, including two large-scale Israeli military operations against Gaza.

The sanctions include denying millions of Palestinians the right to travel to and from Gaza, and are still in effect, although they were “adjusted” after the international outcry following Israel’s May 2010 interception of the Freedom Flotilla and boarding of the large Turkish passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara, during which 9 Turkish men were killed.

These sanctions, however, are collective punishment – which is forbidden under international law.

On one visit, we walked through the Israeli crossing at Erez and out through a long cage in “no-man’s land” inside Gaza, and were waiting for a car to take us to the Hamas border control, when a bomb exploded uncomfortably close. An old man sitting on the ground looked up at us and said “bad”. That pretty much sums up life for many, as we saw it, who are now locked inside Gaza.

During our work in Gaza, we treated a 65 year old man with very painful advanced osteoarthritis of the knees. He was a qualified accountant but could not get a job in his profession and works as a builder’s labourer for 12 hours every day which exacerbated his pain. He was desperate for relief so that he could continue working to support his family. “Those of us who are fortunate to have a job often have to support an extended family which puts us under great pressure”. he said. “Hourly wages are very low so we have to work long hours. We Palestinians are hard-working but we cannot use our skills. We used to manufacture and export furniture to many countries.” But now, he said gloomily, “We can do nothing.”

Another patient drove a truck, delivering and collecting goods at the commercial crossing[s]. “The catastrophe in Gaza is not an earthquake or a flood, it’s man-made,” he said. Shutdowns were frequent and truck drivers are angry about the exorbitant prices exacted by the export companies and Hamas. “They operate like a mafia,” he shouted, “Israel, Egypt, and our government, everybody, are all restricting movement at the crossing and the people of Gaza are paying the price.”

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