Withdrawing an earlier objection propelled by a protracted dispute, a Turkish official sad on Monday, December 24th, that his government has granted approval for Israeli participation in non-military NATO activities in 2013.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, (once its only Muslim ally) have been fractious since May of 2010 when Israeli marines stormed the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. During the violent clashes that ensued on board the ship, nine Turks and other people proclaiming to be “peace activists” were killed by the Israeli forces.
Video evidence of the incident reveals quite clearly that the Israeli commandos alighted the boat peacefully, without the intention to inflict harm. They were then viciously attacked by passengers wielding metal pipes, clubs, and knives. Several pistols were stolen from the commandos and shots were fired as one commando was thrown overboard into to side boat.
Despite efforts by the United States to broker a rapprochement between the two regional powers, the rift has continued. The severing of relations between these two nations who are in close geographical proximity places the US in a difficult position as it needs the cooperation of both Turkey and Israel in order to address rapid political shifts in the Middle East.
Last May, Turkey who is a NATO member, expressed their refusal to allow Israel to participate in an alliance summit on the grounds that Israel did not issue a sufficient “apology” for the killings on the Mavi Marmara and government spokesmen in Ankara objected to any further cooperation.
Although Israel is not a member of NATO, it is part of a NATO outreach program called the Mediterranean Dialogue. With the cooperation of six other non-NATO countries, Israel had previously participated in summits and training exercises.
The Turkish official said that his government has now lifted their objections to Israeli participation in some NATO activities next year, however, they still stand in opposition to joint military exercises.
Prior to the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Israel and Turkey maintained a close alliance. The two countries both border Syria, and had previously engaged in intelligence sharing and had conducted joint military exercises.
In response to a UN investigative report that was released in September of last year, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and ceased military cooperation despite the fact that the report largely exonerated the Jewish state. The intent of the report was to encourage am amicable resolution of the issue that has divided the two nations, but it ultimately deepened the perpetuating conflict when it concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal according to international law. The report also said that Israel has used “unreasonable” force on the ship.
Among Turkey’s demands of Israel are a formal apology, compensation for victims and the families of the dead and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. Short of the full apology demanded, Israel has voiced “regret” over the Mavi Marmara incident and has offered to payments into a “humanitarian fund” through which casualties and relatives could be compensated
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