An Israeli delegation tasked with negotiating a compensation over the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid paid its first visit to Ankara yesterday [April 22]. Led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, and special envoy Joseph Ciechanover, the delegation was deemed to be of satisfactory rank in Ankara.
With US President Barack Obama by his side, Netanyahu had personally extended an apology to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on behalf of his country, and made pledges about paying compensation and lifting the blockade of Gaza.
The mission of the delegation was to outline the framework of the compensation that Turkey had demanded as a condition in the wake of the Israeli military raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla. Following technical talks at the foreign ministry, the delegation met with Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who is in charge of the related political process.
Both meetings were “positive,” according to initial information. This was expected since Israel now places great importance on rebuilding ties with Turkey. The Netanyahu government knows best that the restoration of relations, severed in the past three years, requires a lengthy and arduous process and, therefore, wants that process to start immediately. For that purpose, the Israelis arrived well-prepared for the first meeting in Ankara.
The talks between the two sides resulted in a “draft protocol” that would pave the way for the normalization of ties. The draft was drawn up in consultation with both governments.
The three-page document contains no reference to the amount of compensation, but is rather intended as a road map outlining the general framework of the negotiations.
The draft protocol will be submitted to the Turkish and Israeli prime ministers for further consideration. The governments will add the final touches.
Both sides are careful to prevent the leaking of the protocol’s contents while it is still a draft. This is understandable. The Turkish side in particular is well aware that the families of the Mavi Marmara martyrs are annoyed even by the word “compensation.”
A source I spoke to made the following comments: “The Mavi Marmara ferry was a civic human rights initiative. The sole objective of scores of human rights activists from more than 30 countries was to break the Israeli blockade, which is responsible for the human tragedy of the Palestinians in Gaza. They attempted to do that not by testing Israel’s legitimate boundaries, but via international waters, which Israel controls illegally. Israel, however, intervened with guns. Turkey cannot ignore the noble and humane objective of that legitimate initiative. Moreover, Turkey will take no step that could degrade or trivialize it.
"The suspension of ties with Israel was a reaction ‘from state to state’ and the conditions of restoring ties were determined at the very outset. Turkey never stepped back from those conditions. The Israeli prime minister apologized and said he accepted also the two other conditions: the payment of compensation and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. There are now two things the state will do: conduct the process related to the compensation to be paid by the Israeli state and follow up on whether the blockade of Gaza is lifted. That’s the reason why Turkey is having talks today with the delegation on compensation — it is not bargaining over the martyrs. Turkey has never forgotten that breaking the blockade of Gaza is the essential objective of the Mavi Marmara martyrs. Hence, to describe the negotiations as ‘money bargaining’ would be an insult to both the martyrs and the human rights activists.”
Deputy Prime Minister Arinc emphasized the same point when he met with the Turkish media in Europe last week. So, it is pleasing to hear that an important agreement has been reached in today’s talks on the way of sealing the process with a “protocol.”
Manipulating the issue of compensation in a way that could undermine the process will be to no one’s benefit.